1973 - A cease-fire has been declared in Indochina, but in Carrie Hunter's heart, the war rages on. A tragic loss fuels her political activism ... but disillusionment won't be healed by rallies and rhetoric.
Johnny Malone is an angry stranger in a strange land. The country that sent him into battle holds no parades--no place--for him and the men and women who proudly wore the Marine Corps dress blues.
Though survivors, Johnny and Carrie feel like casualties of war. When past enemies won't be buried and a peaceful future remains elusive, how can they surrender to a desire that defies their differences?
Excellent story of two people on opposite sides of a very emotional issue and how love can bridge that gap. Johnny has spent the last two years in Vietnam as a Marine. He has returned to a country that shows no respect for the job he has done. Just the opposite - he's called names, he's attacked, and he's discriminated against for jobs. Carrie has spent that same amount of time as a political activist, protesting against the war.
The day Johnny arrived home he saw Carrie at one of her protests on the college campus, noticed the pretty blond with the green eyes, and heard her refer to "soulless shells of men who came back to us, brutal and morally destitute, ruined as human beings." And he suddenly felt more than he'd felt in the jungle because he was home. Johnny went to stay with his sister until he could get a job, and discovered that jobs for vets were almost impossible to find. In spite of his business degree, he was only being offered low paying manual labor jobs, and told to grow his hair and leave his service off his applications if he wanted a better job, something he's not willing to do. His sister knows the local high school principal who is looking for a football coach, and suggests Johnny see him. So Johnny ends up taking the coaching job until he can figure out what to do.
Carrie is a high school history teacher who has spent the last several years working to protest the war. Her fiance had been in the army and was sent to Vietnam, where he ended up taking his own life. Shortly after that her brother was drafted, but after training and before he was sent to Vietnam, fled to Canada. Now she's working to get people like that pardoned so that they can come home.
Both Carrie and Johnny are working at the same high school. Their first meeting is rather acrimonious as neither can really see past their own viewpoints. But as they are thrown into each others company more often, they begin to talk. Carrie begins to see the man behind the uniform and gets to know him and what makes him tick. Johnny finds out about the fiance that Carrie lost, and the anger and betrayal that motivates her. Later he also learns about her brother. As they talk, they also discover an attraction that is drawing them even closer together.
That doesn't mean that things go smoothly for them. Johnny has his job with the football team, but it isn't an easy one. His assistant is prejudiced against military and the blacks that go to the school and has no problem showing it. One of his best players is a black kid who almost flunked out, but football is giving him the discipline he needs, if Johnny can just keep him on the team. The player is attacked by a white player, but the principal only punishes the black one, creating tension among all the players on the team and the students in the school. Johnny and Carrie work together to try to fix the problems, but it isn't easy or completely successful. While Johnny is good a being the coach and being a role model for his team, he's not completely happy at it.
Carrie is having problems of her own. Her family has been torn apart because of her brother's actions. Their father, a vet himself, has disowned his son because of what he did and refuses to even speak of him. Her mother misses him and is caught between her husband and her son. When she has a heart attack, Brian comes in from Canada even though he knows that he could be caught and arrested. This also puts stress on the relationship between Carrie and Johnny because of Johnny's feelings about Brian's desertion. There's a great scene where Johnny and Brian sit down together and actually talk about their views and feelings and find that they have more in common than either would have believed.
By the time Thanksgiving comes Johnny has finally started to think about his future and what he really wants. He remembers how he had wanted to be a Marine since he was a little kid. He also remembers the comradeship among his fellow Marines, and how much he liked the job he was doing when he wasn't dealing with the problems created by those running the war. And he began to wonder just why he left the Marines when he came back and think about going back in. This creates a problem with Carrie, because she can't see how she and Johnny can be together with their two different outlooks. Things got very emotional once Johnny made his decision. I liked seeing how things went after that, and how the final resolution was not an easy fix but something that had to be worked for.
I loved the realism showed of the attitudes of the time, both towards the veterans and toward the African Americans that attended the school. I could feel Johnny and Carrie's frustration as they tried to help a deserving student only to be blocked by other people's prejudices. I also enjoyed the inclusion of some of the political turmoil of the time and how it influenced and affected Carrie and Johnny's actions.