Z.O.S. - Book Review


Author: Kay Merkel Boruff
Genre: Non Fiction - Memoir
Date Published: August 16, 2018
ISBN-10: 1944715304
ISBN-13: 9781?68433092?8

Book Review of :  Z.O.S.


Z.O.S. by  Kay Merkel Boruff is an autobiography and a time piece of a woman’s life that is anchored in the sixties and her undying love for a man named Jon Merkel who she marries and unfortunately soon becomes his widow.  I loved the book. It describes the total insanity and exuberance of the youth called upon to fight a war and the women who loved them.  Kay’s husband flew for Air America an American passenger and cargo airline that was covertly controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Kay writes that “They flew days and nights in hazardous conditions. They took cargo in and out of war zones. Live bodies and dead bodies, rice bags, and body bags were shuffled in and shoved out. Information was stenciled, and toe-tagged. Air America’s motto—anything, anytime, anywhere.”

Her life with Jon was an exciting period of overwhelming changes with the sights, voices, sounds, smells and customs of East and West fused into a voyage of astonishing discovery.  It was Kay’s vibrant coming of age adventure. Years later she could still vividly recall the excitement of her youth, in the land of Buddha; she could recall the smell of nuoc man, lemongrass, and jasmine that had assailed her senses. She remembered the golden temples, the tintinnabulation of the bells, and the houses on stilts. She remembered all of this like it was just yesterday.  She recalled how she loved the camaraderie of the Air America family and even the excitement of the war.

Kay reaches back to the days when she and Jon became serious and recounted how he coyly asked her for her hand, “If I ask you to marry me, would you?” She laughed and retorted. “If you do, then we’ll see.”  She left him hanging for three days. 

Kay’s story is a heartfelt memoir and a piercing social commentary that offers a fresh, candid look at the 1960s. She talks about the unique period of time where she was able to be there with Jon in Laos and Vietnam living a life that conflicted dramatically with the war that raged around her. She was one of the wives of the Air America crew that were allowed to live in their company's home base smack in the middle of a War Zone. Kay writes that her husband loved the excitement of war—his sweat-circled grey uniform, his living on the razor’s edge.” Even after his death when asked about Jon she wrote, “I parroted the same inane lies—‘he died for freedom, for the flag.’ I choked back my tears and continued. ‘“For his goddamned thrill-seeking pleasure.’”

Kay Merkel Boruff writes about the generation that was torn between traditional patriotism and an ethical responsibility to her fellow man and to herself. Her writing is authentic, her cynicism and derision reflective of the 60’s era, the topic ironically relevant, and her life’s story written compellingly and innovatively. Once in a while, a book comes along that has something new to say, and Z.O.S. is just such a book. Not just a mere recounting of events, it showed me the heart and soul of a young woman, growing up in the Vietnam era. Her writing gives you a glimpse into the real thoughts and feelings of college-aged young women, married to men who found it fascinating and exhilarating to face death in a tragic war that made no sense. An engaging, disturbing, and witty book, once you begin reading, it's hard to tear yourself away.  Boruff’s writing is elegant, brutal, critical and heartwarming. I loved it. Crank up Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze, open a bottle of Vietnamese Beer, burn some incense and start reading Z.O.S. and drift back to the chaotic sixties that Boruff describes so vividly in her autobiography.

About Kay Merkel Boruff

KAY MERKEL BORUFF has published in the New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, and Texas Short Stories 2. In addition, she has work in several journals, including Suddenly, Behind the Lines, Fifth Wednesday, Adanna, Stone Voices, and Paper Nautilus. Letters of her husband's and hers are included in Love and War, 250 Years of Wartime Love Letters. In 2016 NPR interviewed Boruff and Willie H. Minor, Jr., regarding Vets Helping Vets and their Drama Therapy Program. She lives in Dallas with her Labrador Molly Bloom.


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