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LIFE DUST - Pam Webber
A Perfect 10
ISBN: 978-1-64742-091-8 (Print)
ISBN: 978-1-64742-092-5 (E-book)
October 2022


Northern Virginia, U.S.A and South Vietnam - 1971

Nettie and Andy have known each other all of their lives, and  newly engaged, when Andy gets orders to Vietnam. Nettie is an intern in nurses training at a local hospital,  and drives hundreds of miles to be with Andy before he leaves. It's a poignant farewell, with promises to write, and, more importantly, Andy's promise to return home to Nettie.

One night while on duty, Nettie stumbles upon her nursing supervisor and a doctor in a compromising situation. Unsure whether she'd been noticed by them, Nettie soon discovers that the nurse is out to make Nettie's life difficult. The nurse, Mrs. Woods, goes out of her way to criticize and ridicule Nettie, looking for reasons to remove her from her training program. So, when Nettie befriends a disgruntled, angry heart patient she helped treat in the emergency room, Mrs. Woods doubles down on her harassment. Nettie has not told anyone what she saw that night, so many of the staff wonder why Mrs. Woods is targeting Nettie with her anger.

Andy's duties in Vietnam become clear when he is put in command of a small reconnaissance troop that will conduct patrols along the border of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). His immediate supervisor, Major Smith, has shown his lack of understanding of the dangers involved, but Andy has several members of his patrol with experience, and he relies on them to train the rest of the men. They must learn to survive in a jungle where the enemy is only part of the danger. There are plants, animals, and weather to be aware of, and learning to live off the land becomes paramount. Towards the end of his tour, Andy's group is assigned to accompany a Vietnamese woman in a dangerous attempt to meet with a North Vietnamese officer who may, or may not, be the woman's brother. Andy is not so sure that this isn't a trap. 

Nettie's friendship with the heart patient, Mr. Pepper, keeps her mind off of worrying about Andy. Mr. Pepper is immensely wealthy, but has no one left in his family, and very few friends. He relies on Nettie's visits to cheer him up, but she is threatened by Mrs. Woods if she continues to see the man. What could possibly be wrong with visiting a gravely ill patient?

LIFE DUST is Pam Webber's latest novel, and it is, at times, heart wrenching, but also uplifting. Nettie's integrity stands out as she avoids revealing what she knows about Mrs. Woods, but how long can she hold out? As for Andy, can he keep his troop safe, and, at the same time, complete his mission? Will Nettie and Andy be together again? 

An amazingly well researched, historically accurate novel, LIFE DUST is a page turner. For those who lived through this era, it will bring back a lot of memories.

Jani Brooks

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