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In late spring of 1969, a picturesque southern town is turned inside out by the deaths of seven young National Guardsmen in a single Vietcong attack. The return of the bodies sets off something inside the town itself—a sense of violence, a political reality, a gnawing unease with the future—pushing the families of Cementville into alienation and grief.
The town appears blind to the PTSD of Harlan O’Brien, POW and war hero, even as his horrific experiences bend his mind in terrifying ways. Giang Smith, the ‘war bride,’ has fled the violence of Vietnam with her American husband only to encounter echoes of it in her new home. Evelyn Slidell, the wealthy icon and a descendant of Cementville’s founders, is no stranger to what close-mouthed grief can do to a family. And members of the notorious Ferguson clan, led by the violent Levon and his draft-dodging brother Byard, share a secret despair of their own. Through one strange summer Maureen, the adolescent sister of a recently returned GI, attempts to document the changes happening to her town.
Cementville speaks as a grieving community—already several centuries old—being born again in times of intense change. With the Civil Rights Act only a few years old, a restless citizenry divided over the war, and the Women’s Movement beginning to send tremors through established assumptions about family life, Cementville provides a microcosm of a society shedding the old order, a story resonant with echoes of the issues of war and social change still being confronted today.
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