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After the Flag Has Been Folded: A Daughter Remembers the Father She Lost to War--and the Mother Who Held Her Family Together Paperback – May 2, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In December 1965, David Spears said good-bye to his wife and three children and went to fight in Vietnam; he returned "in a cargo plane full of caskets" in July 1966. His family has never been the same. "He was the center of what made me feel safe," Zacharias, then in third grade, explains. Her mother cried nonstop and never spoke of her beloved again. There wasn't much time for grief, anyway. Spears's paltry life insurance money was soon gone, and Zacharias's mother was a high school dropout living in a cramped trailer home in Tennessee with three kids. She put herself through nursing school while working and raising those youngsters. Although Zacharias's brother struggled with drugs and the teenage Zacharias had to have an abortion before realizing getting pregnant wasn't the best way to find reliable love, they all turned out fine eventually. Readers may enjoy Zacharias's mom's trailer park smarts (a woman's best protection is "a good padded bra") and her colorful Southern-isms (her hungover brother was "sicker than a yard dog with scours"). But while Zacharias entertains, her main point—that a soldier's death brings pain and sorrow to many generations of his family—is a sad truth that Americans are beginning to relearn. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Zacharias' moving memoir opens in July 1966 with the arrival of a jeep bearing news of her father's death in Vietnam, a loss that affected Karen and her siblings all the way into adulthood. Karen was especially in need of nurturing following her father's death; unfortunately her mother reacted by withdrawing from her children, throwing herself into her work, and acquiring numerous boyfriends. So Karen looked to others for support: a grandfather who soon suffers a stroke; youth leaders at church, who later move away; and a boyfriend who abandons her when she becomes pregnant. After college Karen and her mother resolve their contentious relationship, and soon after, Karen begins to seek out the details of her father's death--details her mother could never face. Zacharias' research leads her to an organization called Sons and Daughters in Touch, which brings together adult children of those killed in Vietnam. Her subsequent 2003 journey with members of the group to the very spot where her father died finally concludes her long and emotional quest. Deborah Donovan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060721499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060721497
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,770,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Karen Spears Zacharias is the author of several books including the bestselling MOTHER OF RAIN, winner of the Weatherford Award for Best in Appalachian Fiction and a finalist for the Crook's Corner Book Prize. MOTHER OF RAIN, the stage play, is under production by Georgia's Springer Opera House. A sequel, BURDY, will be released Fall, 2015 by Mercer University Press.

Karen's work has been featured on CNN, National Public Radio, and The Diane Rehm Show​. A Georgia-native, s​​he lives near the big river in Oregon​. Other books include: Karly Sheehan: The True Crime Story Behind Karly's Law, After the Flag has been Folded, Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide?'cause I need more room for my plasma TV.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Susan Mattera on February 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Having picked up a copy of Hero Mama in the Borders' Store at Dulles Airport in DC,the cashier asked me why would I want to read something about an unpopular event such as Vietnam. I shared with her my story having just been to the "Wall" to see my Dad's name "James C. Mitchell Jr. KIA 01/08/1970" and the significance of "Our Story". The story of sons and daughters who lost their Dad's in Vietnam. As I began to read on the plane-I laughed, cried, and said several "OH MY GOD!!'s" This is my life, or at least a greater part of it in print. Several people on the plane notice how intense my facial expressions were while reading the book. I literally could not put the book down. The author captures many of the raw and truthful emotions that children of the Vietnam War have felt and currently feel. These are the emotions of joy, sadness, fear, lonliness, and pride as we have learned to face our lives with the scars of a Nation that did not welcome our fathers home, a Nation that did not understand how to deals with War Orphans and a generation of grieving wives and children, and a Nation that is just now acknowledging the sacrifices of that generation as we begin to heal. It is just now that we see the needs of the next generation of Hero Mamas. Thank you Karen for sharing your story with all of us Sons and Daughters of the Vietnam War. You make us and our Dads very proud. This review is writen by Susan Mitchell Mattera, the proud daughter of James C. Mitchell Jr US Navy who served in Vietnam and was killed in action 01/08/1970.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By LaVerna VanDan, Caregiver on January 19, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Karen Spears Zacharias has honored both her killed-in-action Vietnam Veteran father and her war-widow mother immensely by telling their story, a rare ability these days. This is not a syrupy, sugar-coated account. Rather, it is almost a tell-all. But by sharing her raw, emotion-filled story, she has enabled us to peak into the process of grief itself. We are allowed to look inside the casket at the body with her. We are allowed to feel her shock, dismay, and loneliness. We are allowed into her family circle. And we are taught to care. We are all benefited by her candor and would be wise to observe what happens in families who lose a loved one suddenly, especially in the line of duty. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has loved and lost; for those still reeling from the Vietnam War; for those afraid of losing now; and for healers of various disciplines who might need to know more about how grief is manifested and how support can be given. The Vietnam War is a difficult and often avoided subject. We owe it to Vietnam Veterans and surviving families to listen to their stories and hear what they have learned. We also owe it to those who have just experienced the loss of a loved one in combat more recently to attempt to apply the lessons learned post-Vietnam War to here and now. Karen gives us the prescription to do just that.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By R. S Welch on January 21, 2005
Format: Hardcover
"Hero Mama" is a raw-edged look at the other victims of war: families.

It is a bluntly honest book. It is an unmistakably "southern" book. Above all, it is a thought-provoking book that will help those of us on the outside understand what happens once the flag has been folded and handed to the widow.

Zacharias is that rare writer who is immensely gifted, and yet doesn't let herself get in the way of the story.

"Hero Mama" is a superb book about reconciliation, resiliency and, ultimately, triumph. It is sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always compelling.

As the author of a book about another hero involving war ("American Nightingale," about the first nurse to die after the landings at Normandy), I've read hundreds of books about war. This is among the two or three best.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Church on April 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
After hearing the author on NPR, a friend suggested I read this book. I doubt I would have ever picked it up on my own- I felt like I'd seen all the Vietnam movies and I was not affected by the war. However,I can honestly say this is one of the best books I have ever read. I have a new perspective on not only Vietnam but how I feel for the soldiers in Iraq now. It's not only about the consequences of war- it's about family, grief, perserverence and forgiveness. It's one of those books you think about for days and wish you had more of it to read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rachael on August 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
Very informative book. Not only does it help to understand the perspective of being a child of a KIA (Gold Star), but also, other Gold Star family members, since it focuses on all their lives. Furthermore, it is telling a life story, with plot, so it's not just "this is how a person would feel" from a clinical perspective, but rather, how it really is.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jacquelyn Walton on January 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am huge fan of Southern Fiction Writers (P.Conroy,A.R.Siddons,R.Wells.

I am also the only daughter of

S/Sgt Lewis Walton (SF:Army:MIA-1971). With my baby brother serving in Iraq, I was both hesitant and curious about this book.In my estimation, Karen's account was personal and inspirational.More importantly it sheds light on what life was like for "us kids". Her story should be shared with many and be required reading for ALL high school AND College Classes which focus on Vietnam. Vietnam affected more than just the brave soldiers serving- their parents, children and grandchildren. Kind of makes you think about Aft. and Iraq. A definite must read!

Jacke Walton
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