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Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir

Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir by Danielle Trussoni
46 reviews (2006) (256p)
New York Times® Best Nonfiction Books

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Book Description
A daughter's unforgettable memoir of her wild and haunted father, a man whose war never really ended

     From her father, Danielle Trussoni learned rock and roll, how to avoid the cops, and never to shy away from a fight. Growing up, she was fascinated by stories of his adventures as a tunnel rat in Vietnam, where he risked his life crawling headfirst into holes to search for American POWs held underground. Ultimately, Danielle came to believe that when the man she adored drank too much, beat up strangers, or mistreated her mother, it was because the horror of those tunnels still lived inside him. Eventually her mom gave up and left, taking all the kids except one: Danielle. When everyone else walked away and washed their hands of Dan Trussoni, Danielle would not. Now she tells their story.
     As Danielle trails her father through nights at Roscoe's Vogue Bar, scores of wild girlfriends, and years of bad dreams, a vivid and poignant portrait of a father-daughter relationship unlike any other emerges. Although the Trussonis are fiercely committed to each other, theirs is a love story filled with anger, stubbornness, outrageous behavior, and battle scars that never completely heal.
     Beautifully told in a voice that is defiant, funny, and yet sometimes heartbreaking, Falling Through the Earth immediately joins the ranks of those classic memoirs whose characters imprint themselves indelibly into readers' lives.

Falling Through the Earth is the winner of the Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award for 2005–06. It was chosen by Marilynne Robinson and James A. McPherson. The award is given every two years by the workshop to honor the best book written by a graduate of the workshop during this time. Review
Another casualty of the Vietnam War, Danielle Trussoni has told her story in Falling Through the Earth with bravado, pride, sadness, and candor. Her father, Daniel, served as a tunnel rat, one of the incredibly brave men who went into the webs of tunnels and rooms searching for Vietnamese guerillas hiding out underground. The heat and stench, the courage combined with fear, the claustrophobic confinement, and the incessant tension are recounted with an immediacy that only one who has been there, or knows someone who has, could tell. In fact, Danielle Trussoni went to Vietnam and was guided through the tunnels, trying to follow, literally, in her father's footsteps.

The Trussoni family of Onalaska, Wisconsin, is famous for bar fights and not much else. Daniel is a thug like his brothers, all of whom pride themselves on being tough guys who might just be mobbed up, although there is no proof of that.

Trussoni Thanksgivings were like boxing matches. There was sure to be a rumble on the front lawn of my grandparents' house and a rematch at the tavern down the street... A little blood before dinner was what aperitifs were to other families.

In this atmosphere, Danielle, her sister Kelly, and her brother Matt are trying to raise themselves, or just stay out of the way. After getting a job and some sense of self, Mom takes on a boyfriend and asks Dad to leave. According to Danielle, Dad is pretty broken up about the departure, so she goes to live with him and is treated to a steady round of women callers. The other two children stay with their Mom. Most evenings, Daniel takes Danielle to Roscoe's, the neighborhood tavern, where she sits and watches him get drunk and tell his Vietnam stories. Over and over again. Every so often, he forgets her and she has to make her own way home.

Danielle is endlessly forgiving of this case-hardened vet who is relentlessly mean, paranoid and petty. He is a prototype of the guy who came home and didn't know why he was a survivor. Trussoni has captured the essence of being in bloody battle one day and home the next, and then trying to make sense of it all.

Alternating chapters tell of her father's time in Vietnam, her own journey there, and their messy lives--starting with the divorce and continuing until her adulthood. Family secrets are revealed; Danielle realizes that her mother was not the only person at fault in the breakup of the marriage and that her defense of her father was not always appropriate.

She is finally able to say, after writing him a letter outlining her grievances, "I wanted you to know I was hurt by the way I grew up. ...I wanted you to know how hard I've tried to get through to you, how much work it has been for me." There has never been a daughter more loyal than Danielle Trussoni. --Valerie Ryan

Danielle Trussoni Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 0  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 0  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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