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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