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A Synopsis of
A Son's Father, A Father's Son A Tale of Two Wars
by Hugh Aaron

It's 1970, during the Vietnam War. Sid Randall's son, Ken, just graduating high school, volunteers for the service. Ken's cousin Bobby, the same age as Ken, chooses to escape the draft by going to Canada. Sid, a highly respected man in the community, voted Man of the Year, and a mayoral candidate, plans to groom Ken to eventually succeed him as CEO of his closely held large corporation. Ken also plans to marry his girlfriend Sheree before leaving, but Ken's mother, Edith, talks her into waiting until Ken returns. Sid's brother-in-law and business partner, Jay, wishes for his son Bobby to become CEO. Edith wants Ken to follow his own wishes, to become an astronomer.

When Ken returns from the war three years later he reveals that his platoon participated in the rape and murder of women in a Vietnamese village and is being prosecuted. Although claiming innocence, he is given a brief prison sentence and a dishonorable discharge. On returning home, he finds himself ostracized, and his reputation so damaged that he must leave the country. Meanwhile Sid is asked to withdraw his candidacy for mayor due to the publicity about Ken.

Despite Ken's denials of guilt, Sid finds it difficult to believe his son. All his dreams for Ken to take over the business are destroyed. Cousin Bobby, who has returned from Canada under an amnesty, remains the only choice, but in Sid's eyes he doesn't have the stuff. Bobby's father Jay challenges Sid, demanding that Bobby be considered for the top job.

Upon Edith's pleading, Sid agrees to have it out with Ken hoping to assuage his doubts about Ken's guilt. Sid then reveals to Ken that his suspicions derive from having had a similar experience: he participated in the rape and murder of Filipino women while serving during World War II. He knows the dark side of his otherwise beneficent nature. As a result Ken and Sid make peace, but Ken insists on traveling the world to "find himself," and ends up in Africa.

A year later Roger, a former member of Ken's platoon, visits Ken's parents hoping to secure a job at Sid's company. In a discussion about the incident in Vietnam, Roger sows seeds of doubt concerning Ken's innocence. He hastily departs when he sees that Ken has told a story at variance with his concerning what happened in Vietnam. Edith refuses to believe Roger, but Sid is besieged with doubt again about Ken's innocence. Compelled to reckon with himself and his doubts about Ken, he chooses to reveal to his wife its source: his own guilt at having committed a similar crime.

His wife is understanding and forgiving, saying he is no longer that boy who committed those terrible acts and has more than made up for it by good deeds. News arrives that Ken is stricken with a mysterious tropical malady. Sid goes to Africa to retrieve him and brings him back home. Remorseful, deathly ill, Ken then reveals to his father that he hadn't told the whole story about what happened in Vietnam. Threatened when he tried to stop two buddies from murdering women and children, he shot the men, killing them, but in the confusion no one witnessed the shooting. The father, shocked, but understanding that his son meant to save innocent people, resolves to keep Ken's confession a secret. War, he says, makes killers of good people, bringing out violence and the dark side in the best of us.

This novella is designed to stimulate readers to think about human behavior. Young men and women in their late teens and early twenties and their middle-aged parents will identify with its characters whose personalities are in strong contrast to each other. They are upper middle class, educated, and important to their community. The story advances two major themes: the self-serving ambitions parents have for their children and the morally corrupting influence of war on good, well meaning people.

Family, business, war, ambition, father/son relationship, mother/son relationship, moral dilemma, maturing, influence of the past, love, politics, society, patriotism, violence, guilt.

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