Final Week of the Paco’s Story Readalong

This is the final week of the Paco’s Story read-a-long, check out the discussion questions.

If you missed the first round, second round, and third round of questions, check them out.  You also can check out my responses to section 1, section 2, and section 3.

In the final chapters, the narrator takes us back to Vietnam and sheds light on some of the horrors of the war and Paco’s part in the conflict.  We learn that Paco has a specialty in booby traps and bombs, and that each member of the unit has their own tasks.  The unit is tight knit and the camaraderie is made evident, but there is a darker side to this group.

Paco and his men find a young, female Viet Cong member after she kills several of their fellow soldiers.  Unfortunately, her punishment is the worst thing a woman can imagine, and Paco takes part.  This scene is detailed and gruesome, but it serves to demonstrate how far the war can twist the human mind and its ability to discern right from wrong when revenge becomes the top priority.  It is not just revenge against the female Viet Cong for killing their men, but for all the enemies who have won battles and killed Americans and dragged them into this war.

In previous chapters, we’ve seen Cathy watch Paco from afar and flirt with him. . . tease him.  She teases him when he comes back to the Hotel Geronimo as she waits in her doorway in little more than a man’s dress shirt, and Paco’s expectation is that if he can get to her door before she closes it, they will become as intimate as they have imagined.  Her flirtations know no bounds.  One evening she leaves town, and Paco sneaks inside her room and reads her diary.  Sadly, what she says about him cuts him to the core, making him realize that his fantasies of fitting in and returning to the living are just that fantasies.

Another interesting aspect of Paco’s Story is the similarities that can be drawn between Vietnam and Boone, Texas, from the hot and sticky climate to the desolate feeling of being alone in the “jungle.”  Whether its enemy territory or a town full of people that do not want you there, both places make Paco feel ill-at-ease and out of place.  Setting plays an important role in the story and helps establish the pressures Paco continues to feel even though the war is over.

Finally, the ending of the book may be ambiguous, but it is fitting given our visit with Jesse and his penchant for traveling across the United States to experience life and forget about war.  Paco seems to be embarking on a similar path.

Paco’s Story is a novel that anyone interested the Vietnam War should . . . no must read.

Even if you aren’t participating in the Vietnam War Reading Challenge, we hope that you will join us for the Paco’s Story read-a-long.


  1. Yes, that scene was horrifying. And it caused me to have less sympathy towards Paco afterwards. Although, I still wanted Cathy to get the slap in the face she deserves, for her treatment towards Paco. I like what you said about the ending, great thoughts. Also I agree it’s a must read for a Vietnam reading list.
    Jules´s last blog post ..Book Review- Pacos Story

  2. Sounds like a very difficult, powerful book. I’ll admit I don’t read much about the Vietnam War; hits a little close to home given some family stuff. But it sounds like quite a book.

  3. I forgot about Jesse…he does seem to be following in his footsteps doesn’t he?
    What a great book!

    As hard as it is to read the rape scene, I think it’s an important part of the story.
    Kris´s last blog post ..Pacos Story Read-a-long – Chapter 6 &amp 7

    • I just see some similarities in Paco’s decision, but then again…it might be the only choice he sees. I think he’s still too fragile to make another choice.

  4. I have been following this read-along and think that although the book sounds really dark, I would love the chance to read it and see what I think of it. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on it, I found them really interesting.
    zibilee´s last blog post ..Lit- A Memoir by Mary Karr — 432 pgs

    • I hope that you pick up a copy of this book and read and review it. If you do, be sure to send a link over to the war through the generations web site.

  5. Nice summary. By the time I got to finding similarities and differences, I was out of steam. That rape scene and Cathy’s bitchishness took it all out of me.
    Sandy´s last blog post ..Pacos Story Readalong – Week 4

  6. The scene with the Viet Cong girl is nauseating, literally. But it’s important to illustrate that war isn’t just clear cut battles. It screws people up and makes them do horrible things they might not have done otherwise. And even though it changed my opinion about Paco, I felt sorry for him as he read Cathy’s diary. That must’ve hurt.
    Anna´s last blog post ..Guest Post- Margaret Dilloway- Author of How to Be an American Housewife

    • Cathy was just a cruel person to start with. . . look at the way she used and teased Paco. . .and Marty-Boy for that matter. I just think she’s one of those types of girls that Paco shouldn’t waste his time on…though what other options were there really.


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