Welcome to the Paco Story Readalong Week 2 discussion questions. In chapters 3 and 4, Paco has arrived in the US from Vietnam, with scars and a walking cane as proof of his experience. He gives nearly all of his cash to a bus driver and tells him to take him as far as the money lasts. Which is a small town in Texas.
1. Do you think Paco is ready to rejoin the living and will he easily re-enter “normal” life?
Would anyone be ready, honestly? I think just about every Vietnam Vet had issues with adjustment after they returned home, but it seems like Paco is as ready as the next guy. I don't think his re-entry will be easy. His cane and his limp draws attention and prejudice, and he will have to overcome this.
2. How do you think the lively atmosphere of Rita’s Tender Tap affects Paco?
It is hard to tell what Paco is thinking in any of these scenes, because he speaks few words. But by his actions (in this case, his swift departure), I believe he was overwhelmed by all that humanity, and by the patrons' disregard for him. I would imagine he felt like he didn't belong.
3. Do you think Heinemann made the right choice in narrator, or do you believe Paco should be telling his own story?
The obvious choice WOULD have been for Heinemann to allow Paco to tell his own story. However, the soldier ghost's perspective is an inspired decision. It provides us the viewpoint of America, watching our soldiers come home from the war. An outsider's viewpoint. It actually is more insightful than if we were privy to only Paco's thoughts. What it tells me is that in general, the world passed the soldiers by, and often could care less about their stories.
4. Do you think the side stories about the medic who found Paco, the bus driver, and Mr. Elliot, etc., add to the narrative or take too much attention away from Paco, who seems to hide in the background during these asides?
No, I don't think the side stories distract at all. Like I stated in question #3, these characters are a cross-section of America, and how they responded to the returning soldiers. In Mr. Elliot, we see a man damaged by his own wars and ghosts, and didn't even recognize the existence of the Vietnam War. The bus driver saw Paco as one in thousands that pass before his eyes in a year's time. The owner of the diner, on the other hand, was a Marine and saw in Paco a brother. Each of these characters represents everyman.
5. How do you feel about Paco at this point in the book?
Obviously I feel sympathy for him, and wish I could help him. But I've had little insight into who he really is. So far, he has passed through the first four chapters as an invisible man.