In September 1967, with the Vietnam War raging, Lieutenant Jim Doyle arrives at a small United States Air Force radar site in Nakhon Sarang, a town in central Thailand. He is the new administrative officer for the site, where the work is in support of the bombing of North Vietnam and Laos.
As the year wears on, Doyle must not only deal with the internal politics of the site’s leaders, but also with troubled officers and airmen, his own conflicted feelings about the war, and his entanglements with several Thai women, some bawdy, and some uplifting. His confused emotions lead him to become awkwardly involved in another lieutenant’s romantic situation, one that ends badly for everyone. At the end of his year-long assignment, Doyle leaves Nakhon Sarang and Thailand disappointed in his inability to have made sense of his experience, a feeling that will continue to trouble him for years to come.
Although ultimately a sad tale, the story is also a portrait of young Americans dropped into an exotic culture in wartime, portraying them with humor, sometimes risqué and sometimes farcical, but always with an underlying empathy.