3 out of 4 stars
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Purple Hearted Man by Jack McDaniel is the story of a man born in the desert who wants to be a healer. He joins what he calls a tribe where there are people who can support each other. He has other friends, but sometimes it's hard to tell who he can trust, including the woman who claim she's his sister. His job is hard because his enemy is the powerful One-Eye God, also known as the Money God.
The Purple Heart is a USA military decoration awarded to those wounded or killed while serving with the nation's military. At the beginning of the novel, a soldier wounded in action is brought to a hospital for treatment, and a nurse nicknames him the Purple Hearted Man. His wounds are both physical and mental as he suffers from severe PTSD. The consequence is that he thinks he was just born, but he doesn't know what to do with his life. He recovers from his physical wounds, but there's no budget to give him the psychiatric assistance he needs. He thinks his name is Purple, and when he gets out of the hospital and returns to his hometown he sees the world like no one else does.
The novel is told in the first person by Purple, starting from what he thinks is his birth in the desert. That's an intriguing choice by Jack McDaniel, because through Purple's eyes and thoughts we get to know him. That means understanding how he sees the world and what he thinks of it. He's a man who lost his memories and created a new identity. Despite his mental issues, he's lucid in his own way.
The One-Eye God, also known as the Money God, is probably the easiest to understand among Purple's ideas, and is a key to everything he thinks and does. He sees society being corrupted by money, and its consequent inequality. It's the society that literally spent trillions of dollars in its recent wars. It's the same society that has little budget to support the soldiers sent to fight those wars after they come home, sometimes with severe problems. It's the society that sees homeless people as rejects, making them invisible. Through Purple, Jack McDaniel addresses these issues and makes you wonder who's really mentally ill in this society. The author can be harsh in judging Western society, but I can't ignore the points Purple makes throughout the novel.
The beginning of the novel is bit brutal, as it's a battle scene, otherwise it's not an action story. What I found captivating is Purple's chain of reflections developed from his unique point of view. He's an outcast, so he sees society from the outside. The contrast between him and a society ruled by the One-Eye God is present throughout the novel. Despite his mental problems, he tries to help other people in his mission as a healer. That's remarkable, an interesting part of the novel that made me sympathize with Purple even more.
I found myself immersed in Purple's perceptions despite the novel's slow pace. My only complaint is that occasionally Purple is a bit obscure in his descriptions. At the end of the book, Jack McDaniel added a link to a mini-guide that explains some aspects of the novel.
In my opinion, Purple Hearted Man is a cleverly written novel that offers a thought-provoking depiction of our society. It contains neither profanities nor sexual references. There are several punctuation errors, in particular of an upper case after a semicolon. That's why my rating is only 3 out of 4 stars. If you're at least open to the possibility that there's something wrong in our society, this is a great novel that offers food for thought about these issues.
Purple Hearted Man
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