Book Review: Vietnam Wives (Aphrodite Matsakis) : VN | HistoryNet MENU

Book Review: Vietnam Wives (Aphrodite Matsakis) : VN

8/12/2001 • Reviews, Vietnam Book Reviews

Vietnam Wives, by Aphrodite Matsakis, The Sidran Press, Lutherville, Md., $19.95.

We have heard the cries and shouts of Vietnam veterans suffering from the past and present horrors of war. Now we also hear the women who love them whisper their sadness and share the pain of secondhand memories. In Vietnam Wives, Aphrodite Matsakis relates the suffering and confusion that surrounds the lives of wives of Vietnam veterans afflicted with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The stories shared by the Vietnam wives serve as a synopsis of the problems of families in crisis. In addition to describing the feelings and fears the women face, Matsakis provides coping techniques, a resource guide and an extensive list of reading material. PTSD is a complicated and controversial topic, and Matsakis addresses it comprehensively and compassionately. Sensitive topics such as suicide, spousal abuse, anger, alcohol and drug addiction, PTSD’s effects on children, “fight or flight,” and therapy are examined with insight.

Vietnam Wives is highly recommended for anyone who wants or needs a better understanding of the emotional, psychological and physical barriers that surround the lives of these women. And veterans themselves may gain a better understanding of their lives by seeing through the eyes of others.

PTSD is not a singular disorder, affecting only veterans; its effects spread from father to son, mother to daughter, family to family, permeating society with invisible scars. Too often veterans fail to seek help, claiming that it is their problem or that no one understands. Vietnam Wives may help veterans seek help–if not for themselves, perhaps for their loved ones.

Merlene McIntyre

9 Responses to Book Review: Vietnam Wives (Aphrodite Matsakis) : VN

  1. Mrs. Grace E Miller says:

    Hi do you have any suggestions where I can buy this book. Thank you God bless

  2. susan wehunt says:

    OMG…I didn’t think I would ever finf this site. Married to a disabled Vietnam Veteran for 45 years.
    I do not know how much longer I can take what is going on in my home. husband has severe TBI and PTSD…..I have never talk to other wives concerning this problem. Held a gun to m head the other day…thinking it would help him to understand what I am feeling…MY MIND IS TURNING TO MUSH…UNDERSTAND IS BECOMING A THING OF THE PAST…I JUST WANT TO HAVE THE MAN I LOVE HAVE MY BACK ALSO.


    • Cathy says:

      Brave girl. I have been with my vet for 40 years and I feel for you.
      You sound at the end of your tether.
      Do you have support from VVCS? (Australia)
      It does not do much good discussing the issues with other wives of non vets as they cannot understand. Please try to join a group of vets wives, although it is important to have friends outside the vet circle too.
      Does your vet have any contact with any ex service group…Vietnam Veterans or RSL (again Australia)as they have people to help him at various levels?
      Try to have time apart, so you can regain your sense of self.
      Be strong. Know that many others are struggling too.

  3. Merlene Reynolds says:


    I am the author of the book review and a former girlfriend of a Vietnam veteran. I wasn’t aware until after my article, “Hearts without Homes: Coping with PTSD”, was publsihed in the Vietnam magazine how simillar my experience was to others.

    I have since learned a great deal about Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and remain a student of psychology.

    Thank you for commenting.
    Merlene Reynolds

  4. Peggy says:

    I cried when I saw your article. I have been married to a vietnam vet for 45 years. The PTSD never stopped at just Vietnam, things happen continuously. I told my husband about this book all he could say is yep, yep, then goes on to say he think he has handled the PTSD very well over the years. He turned it over to himself, as it’s all about him. There are many times I have wanted to leave but I don’t. This is a merry-go-round. He was in the Air Force. We have 2 kids, now grown women, yes, they too have suffered. Unfortunately the Vietnam Veteran cannot hear or understand how the wife and rest of the family is effected by his PTSD, it really never goes away, life is never really “normal,” he only hears his own desperation and hopes everyone else will understand his anguish. occasionally he lashes out and blames anything he can find for any conditions, illnesses, it’s always, about him. There is a lot that has gone on in our lives and things that have happened to him, beyond his control, that brings out the PTSD, it is always something else I have to go through. Sometimes, like another person who commented about putting a gun to her head, I think maybe he would see my anguish if he saw me hanging from a beam or ceiling fan. No he wouldn’t, he would go deep into himself he wouldn’t understand my side of it. I truly hope this will help someone else.

  5. Cathy says:

    I read your message. It is a terrible dilemma: Do I go? Do I stay?
    At the heart of this problem is our loyalty to the man we love who on most days or some days, at least, is loving, gentle and kind. On those days, we let down our guard, open our hearts and dare to think that this lull may actually miraculously continue. We see again the person we fell in love with and that glimpse and the sense of relief,, for better or worse, gives us the hope and the energy to carry on.
    Then out of the blue, just as we begin to relax, BANG! They explode, hit out, or sink into the depths of the blackest hole…
    This cycle can occur as often as daily and it takes it toll on our health and emotions as we struggle to cope with the roller coaster again. The guard goes up, as we rush to protect ourelves. The grim nature of our predicament reasserts itself as the dominant feature of our lives
    If you decide to stay and I have, my tips for survival lie in the creation of a more independant life for one’s self.
    Acknowledge the grief that this man cannot give you what you yearn for in a life mate, just as if he had suffered brain damage or a debilitating physical injury. After all, the injury was certainly sustained…it is just not visible.
    Then build your own life, spending time with your loved ones and friends, independantly of your man. Make new friends, outside your circle. Put time into a sport or interest you have. Return to study. Create a room of your own. Write a book. Give your time to a charity. Take long walks… I have bought a little van in which to ‘shoot through’ occsioanlly.
    In Australia the federal government is conducting a study of the families of Vietnam veterans, after recognnising that the legacy of the Vietnam War and its aftermath impact on not just the veteran, but his family.Over 18,000 people responded to their questionnaire and the results should be published in 2014.
    You may like to follow its progress online.
    Try to fill your rlife with good experiences and let others nurture you.
    If you are in Australia, VVCS will offer support free of charge and they do offer an excellent PTSD programme for vets.
    My heartfelt wishes are with you. Live your life well.

  6. Merlene says:

    Dear Readers,

    Vietnam Wives was a source for my article, Hearts without Homes: Coping with PTSD.

    I found the book, Vietnam Wives to be information, supportive and comforting to know that others had shared similar experiences with those they love.

    Merlene Reynolds

  7. […] concern about the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by returning veterans.  The book review I wrote for Vietnam Wives was also published by both the Vietnam magazine and […]

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