Buffalo Boy is Ngyen Luu Hai. He's 14 and lives in a small village near Cu Chi in Vietnam.
Geronimo, also known as “Meow Man,” is Antonio Lucio Conchola. He's a medic with an Army unit in Vietnam, a Mexican-American and something of a braggart. He tells people he was a football hero in high school, for instance, though he actually played second string.
Buffalo Boy hugs his bull buffalo, Great Joy, at night to escape the loneliness caused by the death of his father in the war. But one horrible night, the buffalo is blown up in an air strike.
Hai is in love with Le Minh Thien, his sister's best friend. He shows off for her, sings to her and dreams of her. She acts as though she is not aware that he is around.
Conchola is called “Meow Man” because he believes he was scratched by a tiger. His platoon did, indeed, come across a wounded tiger in the jungle, but most of his comrades think Conchola cut his arm on a tree while backing away from the tiger. Conchola, convinced he has a special relationship to the great beast, deserts and tries to find it. He brings his medical kit, thinking he can bind the tiger's wounds. He's caught, and only through fast talking and playing the fool does he escape a court-martial and punishment for desertion.
Meanwhile a traveling elephant drover turns up at the village. When he is killed, Le Minh Thien inherits the care of the elephant.
A bombing and napalm attack on Hai's village forces the peasants to evacuate. They move up the trail to an area the Vietcong guerrillas tell them has some undamaged farmland on which to grow their rice. As they near the new village site, Conchola, who has deserted again, turns up. The mistrustful Vietnamese face the soldier who deserted rather than fight them.
The review of this Book prepared by David Gordon