New Internationalist

Falling Through the Earth

October 2006

After the international success of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes, memoirs of dysfunctional childhoods have become as common as weeds. Danielle Trussoni’s début work sets her apart from the throng of eager chroniclers of depressing upbringings; it is both uncommonly well-written and refreshingly free of self-pity.

Trussoni weaves together three chronological strands; her father’s experiences as a US infantryman in Vietnam, her own childhood, and her journey as an adult to Vietnam, to try to make sense of her father’s life and her own.

Danielle’s father Dan had been a ‘tunnel-rat’, a volunteer who descended into the honeycomb of subterranean passages created by the North Vietnamese and fought vicious hand-to-hand combat in the claustrophobic darkness.

Against suicidal odds, Dan Trussoni survived and returned to America, living a typical suburban life with his wife and three children. The scars of the war cut deep, though, and his erratic behaviour and heavy drinking led to Danielle’s mother leaving him. Opting to stay with her father, Danielle’s world, aged 11, was one of smoky bar-rooms, transitory women, and endless yarns of Vietnam. Her account of this boozy, peripatetic lifestyle is shot through with wit and a luminous love for her difficult, damaged father.

The final thread of the book – Danielle’s trip to contemporary Vietnam – is the least successful and occasionally reads like the standard ‘American abroad’ travelogue. If she had extended her empathy to the Vietnamese – both those her father fought and those who later welcomed her to their ravaged, beautiful country – then she would have widened the resonance of her book beyond what is an engaging family memoir, to something grander and more universal.

Peter Whittaker

This column was published in the October 2006 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Falling Through the Earth

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Falling Through the Earth Fact File
Product information by Danielle Trussoni
Publisher Picador
Product number ISBN 0 330 43537 6
Star rating3
Product link

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Books

All Books

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 394

New Internationalist Magazine issue 394
Issue 394

More articles from this issue

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.