Those who do not learn from the events of History are doomed to repeat it. I always think of that saying whenever events transpire that give me a sense of deja vu. Those who lived long enough to see the fall out from the Vietnam War may have been saddened by the nation's involvement in two wars we could not win in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember when the Iraq wars first started how sad it was to see the daily count on the news and see the bodies being brought home. With our twenty four hour news cycle, coverage was much more in depth than it was forty odd years ago yet still I felt a sense of detachment from the events over there.
The book Death Coming Up the Hill by Chris Crowe is a small ode to the soldiers who perished and/or went MIA in Vietnam. Told completely in haiku form the book relates one year in the life of a teenager called Ashe who lives with his parents in Arizona. Theirs is a loveless marriage although they both love Ashe dearly.
Ashe has a vibrant English teacher Mr. Reed who does not shy away from the realities of what is happening to the young men fighting in Vietnam. He gets very emotional about the subject but this is because he has a strong sense of right and wrong and knows that what is going on there could never be right.
Ashe also meets a kindred spirit with whom he can talk about the war as well as his turbulent family life. As his home life unravels Ashe has some tough decisions to make and eventually decides to do what will benefit his mom the most.
I flipped this book open when it came in and I saw the haiku and assumed it was a poetic ode to the war but only after examining it closely did I discover that it was indeed a novel. The verse form did not impede the narrative and it flowed smoothly. As I reflect on how hard it is to compose haiku, this is some feat. Despite the fact that the book deals with happenings from the 1960s it is still relevant today due to the fact that many of these same issues are still unresolved and in some cases are even worse today.