Memoir Monday: Soft Spots

Soft Spots

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, and I’m glad I was finally able to read it. I can’t speak to how well this book sums up other veterans’ experiences with PTSD, but I think I’m at least better able to understand this particular Marine’s experiences.

The memoir starts in the States with a rum and Coke and ends in in the States with a computer. In between is a gripping and revealing exploration of Van Winkle’s deployment to Iraq in 2003 and struggles with PTSD upon his return. We’re able to see his seemingly endless frustrations at the VA (and these are painful scenes to observe as reader), as well as the events he witnessed in Iraq that landed him in those waiting rooms. This was a fascinating read for me and is a memoir I would recommend.

If anyone is curious about the state of the VA, this memoir also serves as a scathing condemnation of the inefficiencies associated with that agency. Damn.

Van Winkle’s memoir is easily accessible to non-military readers—he defines acronyms, explains how things work, and describes the equipment he mentions.  That information doesn’t bog down the reading.

This book was a quick read once I got about a third of the way through the book. I was bothered by several editing errors within the first 20 pages, and the writing in that first third felt very cliche to me. I found the excessive use of simile to be distracting, but I can see their function in the work.  After the book got going, though, it found a steady rhythm, and I appreciated the journey that Van Winkle took me on.


Discussion of Soft Spots:

  1. How can a civilian reader to do more than just read a memoir to support or understand veterans with PTSD?
  2. If you’re a veteran reading this, what kind of support would you want from civilians? Does this particular memoir perpetuate any particular stereotype that you can’t stand?
  3. Are memoirs like this meant to be understood by a civilian audience? Is “being understood” the main goal of these kinds of works?

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