Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir

by Danielle Trussoni

Danielle Trussoni is the daughter of a Vietnam vet who spent
the war dropping hand grenades down tunnels: "The upper half of his
body remained aboveground, as if stuck, but he scraped against the
edges and worked himself in, twisting back and forth. His stomach
pinched. He sucked it in, trying to redistribute his organs. That's
when they get you...when you're vulnerable. They hide in the dark.
They wait until you're halfway through a hole. Then they ram the
punji sticks in."

The damage to his spirit is obvious to everyone but himself, but
most especially to his youngest girl, who finds that in order to
banish his ghosts she has to visit Vietnam, even if he won't go
with her.

She grew up in bars, hanging out with Dan, listening to his
spellbinding horror stories of the war. The worst story by far was
about the day Goodman died, taking a bullet that should have been
Dan's, because Goodman had taken an extra turn at their grisly job.
Just the fortunes of war, but it traumatized Dan more than anyone
realized. Because of that displaced death, Dan Trussoni worked
harder than anyone, refused to complain, and didn't mind beating up
people who annoyed him.

It wasn't ever easy being Dan's offspring. His older daughter Kelly
followed precisely in his footsteps, becoming a rather successfully
adjusted barmaid at Roscoe's, the hangout where Danielle had spent
so much time with the old man. Both Kelly and Danielle plowed
through a lot of painful, masochistic, truncated affairs before
they found any sort of quiet.

Danielle defied Dan, for whom she was obliquely named, many times
--- smoking dope, shoplifting, and bringing in boyfriends through
the bedroom window. Dan's behavior wasn't much better. Somehow,
amid working double shifts and visiting the bar almost every might,
he managed to maintain various illicit affairs despite his
moralistic preaching at his kids. "Through the years that we lived
together, the women in my father's life came and went. They
arrived, all heat and smoke, and they left, snuffed." Dan pinched
pennies, pled poverty and sent Danielle out to work at age 15,
while it was common knowledge that he had plenty of money stashed

Danielle's mother left when she was 10, and somehow it was
understood that Danielle would remain with her father while Kelly
and younger brother Matt went with their mom. It took years for
Danielle to understand her mother and empathize with her. She had
had Dan's first child, a daughter named Tracy, out of wedlock. Dan
refused to acknowledge that he was the father until Tracy, in her
twenties, hunted her birth parents down and he finally submitted to
DNA testing. Danielle's mother had forgiven him and later married
him because she knew he "had just gotten back from Vietnam. He
wasn't well."

The book jumps a bit too much for my logical brain, hopping to a
trip to Vietnam in the opening chapters before we've developed a
clear picture of how it would have shaped Dan and his relationship
with his family. I found the staccato jumps from past to present to
media res distracting. But there is no doubting the
sincerity of the author and her determination to smooth out the
ragged edges in her relationship with the tormented man who spent
his youth falling through the earth.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on January 21, 2011

Falling Through the Earth: A Memoir
by Danielle Trussoni

  • Publication Date: February 21, 2006
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • ISBN-10: 0805077324
  • ISBN-13: 9780805077322