Today we welcome back fine artist/teacher and novelist Laura Azzi to Write from the Inside Out. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your reviews with us here. Laura lives in Raleigh, NC, and is extremely active in Wonderland Book Club, a monthly gathering of the NC Writers’ Network Wake County members. Today we’re featuring her review of Joan Leotta’s novella A Bowl of Rice. You’ll read more of Laura’s engaging reviews in the coming weeks—Enjoy!
Joan Leotta’s A Bowl of Rice is the third book in her Legacy of Honor series. Anna Maria O’Shea, a recent nursing school graduate, is about to serve at an EVAC unit in Vietnam during the tumultuous 1970s. Enigmatic Michael, an active war protester, tries to convince Anna Maria to move to Canada with him on the cusp of her graduation and shipping out.
Leaving Michael behind, Anna Maria is hit with the stress of combat medicine and an unfamiliar culture as she begins her tour of duty. She settles into the hospital routine and bonds with her new roommate, Kathy.
“I feel so powerless in the face of their pain,” she whispers to her friend.
This consciousness continues throughout the story as she manages the psychological scars of injury and war.
While she is off duty and searching for solitude, she finds comfort and love with George, another soldier. The drama escalates when George becomes embroiled in a daring rescue near the DMZ. This move brings to the forefront many innocent civilian casualties.
The story gathers momentum with graphic images of the Vietnam conflict. With the depersonalization of patient care in the midst of overwhelming triage, Anna Maria equates caring for trauma like caring for the patient’s soul. Her concern goes beyond the present care and situation to wounded warriors’ return to civilian life.
Leotta’s compelling storytelling doesn’t waver throughout the book though I thought the climax was too predictable and the character of Anna Maria needed more weight. The seamless, ever deepening movement of the Vietnam civil conflict makes this book a must read. Leotta’s The Legacy of Honor series continues with the involvement of war for future generations of this same family.
Laura Azzi is a professional artist (watercolor and pen & ink) who teaches at NC State. With her diverse background in biology, medical research and business, Laura is always up for learning new things. She lives in Raleigh, NC, is an active member of the North Carolina Writers’ Network, and is working on her first novel about a dog, called Jacks.