If any year defined the Baby Boomer generation, it would be 1968. The anti-war protests at home played out against heavy fighting during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. Idealistic and hopeful youth rallied around Dr. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy only to witness their assassinations two months apart. Music was great and women were empowered. It is against this backdrop that author Gerald Gillis sets his novel, Shall Never See So Much.
Central characters Tom and Kate Flanagan, brother and sister, are typical of their generation in their passion for what they believe is best for our nation. But like the nation in 1968, they stand divided. Tom is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps leading men into some of the most vicious battles in Vietnam. Kate has just joined the staff of anti-war candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy as he campaigns for the presidency. Both Tom’s and Kate’s individual stories play off each other and bring the reader into that challenging year in our history.
Gillis is a former Marine and expressively captures the “everydayness” as well as the horrors of war. Shall Never See So Much is an incredible story of family, war and the love of country that held our nation together.
Reviewed by: Gail Chatfield (2011)
Shall Never See So Much is the story of a brother and sister in the epochal year 1968. The story is told from the point of view of Chicago-natives Tom and Kate Flanagan. Calm, thoughtful Tom Flanagan is a young U.S. Marine lieutenant serving as a platoon leader in Vietnam at the time of the momentous Tet Offensive. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, high-spirited, activist Kate Flanagan accepts a job on the staff of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy as RFK begins his ill-fated quest for the presidency. The previously close relationship between the brother and sister is severely strained over their respective positions on the war, and their discord only serves to heighten the anxieties felt by the entire Flanagan family. Tom’s own survival is threatened by the heavy fighting he experiences, especially during the Battle of Hue. Shall Never See So Much is a story of heroism and triumph.