The Taste of Metal: A Deserter's Story


254 pages
ISBN 0-00-200055-5
DDC C818'.5409





Reviewed by Joseph Jones

Joseph Jones is a reference librarian in the Koerner Library at the
University of British Columbia.


Jack Todd’s memoir offers an extended account of his desertion to
Canada during the Vietnam War. The mainly chronological narrative
centres on the transitional period 1969–73. The story’s three parts
and epilogue cover being drafted out of a Florida newspaper job,
military training at Fort Lewis in Washington state, the stresses of
immigrant adjustment to Canada, and the aftermath. In the hundred pages
dealing with life in Canada, notable episodes include immigration as a
deserter, a clash between hippies and police in Vancouver, and the
October Crisis in Quebec.

Several themes stand out. The life of Todd’s childhood friend Sonny,
a damaged Vietnam veteran who died at 50, provides a counterpoint to his
own story. A wrenching separation from Mariela, his early love in
Florida, is followed by a troubled series of encounters and
relationships, with vague concluding mention of “a love that would
last.” A vivid account of family background accompanies a strong sense
of Nebraska roots. Throughout “exile” contrasts with “home.”

Todd elaborates on two “mistakes” that point to self-destructive
tendencies and an impulsive personality. After a few months, he quits
his first job at the Vancouver Sun and then tries unsuccessfully to get
rehired. An unwarranted expectation of obtaining travel documents leads
him to renounce his U.S. citizenship at the time of Watergate. Todd
makes it clear that he would have returned to the United States under
amnesty had he not burned his bridges. This engaging story owes much of
its emotional impact to the author’s journalistic skills. His book, it
should be noted, appears to have enjoyed a much more positive reception
in Canada than in the United States.


Todd, Jack., “The Taste of Metal: A Deserter's Story,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,