Spanning over 200 years of American military history, “The Wars Among the Paines” (Koehler Books, September 30, 2020), tells the complex story of a family defined by war, accounting in vivid detail its toll in blood, treasure, and emotional turmoil. Nearly 50 years in the making, “The Wars Among the Paines” is the debut novel by Vietnam veteran John M. Millar, who tells a story that illustrates how the consequences of America’s foreign wars escape the boundaries of the front lines, and ripple through generations of families, friends, politics, and the lives of we the people.
OUR TOUR THROUGH EUROPE
Versailles was our first stop on the tour that Michelle had laid out. Because of my possible military service in the future, we avoided any of the communist countries. We chose to start in Italy after our trip to Versailles. The European railroad system was amazing for how quickly we got to our destinations. We took the overnight train to Naples, Italy, and then worked our way west through Italy. Our next stop was Rome for three days, Siena for two days, Florence for three days, Venice for a wonderful week, and finally for three days at Lake Como. We then traveled up to Switzerland, staying only a day each in Zurich, Lucerne, Bern, and Geneva.
Even after twenty-two years, Michelle would not go to Austria and Germany. To the French, those nations were still anathema for their actions in World War II. She preferred what she called the “romance countries” of Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal. Our next stop was Cannes then on to Aix-en-Provence, north of Marseilles. The next part of Tour Michelle was to Spain with several days in Barcelona and Madrid. We then spent three days in Lisbon, Portugal, before moving on to Andorra in the Pyrenees Mountains. Our last days of the tour were in the wine region of Bordeaux and then back to Paris.
When I looked back on those over forty days of touring, I realized this was a farewell tour for us. We traveled first class on the trains, stayed at the best hotels, ate at the best restaurants, and made love passionately at every stop. I did not realize it at the time, but Michelle knew she was never leaving France again. That meant the likelihood of us marrying and settling in France were remote. Whatever path I took when I arrived back in the States, neither one was likely to lead me back to France and her.
This whirlwind summer tour was meant to keep us from thinking about this reality. It accomplished that for me. I would always remember it as a joyous summer with a touch of sadness. When we arrived in Paris, we stayed at a hotel near Orly Airport, from which I would be leaving in two days. There was much holding, kissing, lovemaking, and crying for those two days. I told her I had not made up my mind about whether to go to law school or Vietnam. I would call her first about my decision. Michelle did not come to see me off because she thought she would break down. I thought that was best because I knew I would break down.