From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In his powerful debut, a young Newsweek reporter details two tumultuous years covering the war while falling in love with his long-distance girlfriend Andi, who would join him in Iraq only to be killed in a botched kidnapping. Largely concerned with describing on-the-ground conditions, Hastings reports with insight and grim humor from the front lines, embedded with soldiers in "a world with its own language and geography." Hastings handles the grisly particulars directly, the way he talks with the troops; the account is pocked with their tales, short bursts of heart-stopping sadness ("One American and at least fifteen Iraqi children killed") with no lesson or redemption indicated, and often without follow-up. The chaos is given shape by Hastings' romance with Andi, who remains in New York for a year before joining him in the Green Zone; dates, emails and instant messages provide a welcome reprieve, and drive the narrative toward its devestating conclusion like a tightly-plotted thriller. Like Mariane Pearl's A Mighty Heart, this is a tragic love story with broad appeal married to an unflinching account of wartime violence and brutality; as such, it should do even more than that bestseller to fill in a general audience on the dire state of Iraq. Photos.
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In 2005, at the age of 25, Hastings was sent by Newsweek to cover the war in Iraq. Eventually, his girlfriend, Andi Parhamovich, joined him, working for the National Democratic Institute to try to create democratic institutions. The story of their moving and ultimately tragic relationship forms the core of Hasting’s account. The book begins and ends with the horrifying terror attack that killed Parhamovich. In between, Hastings describes how two young, almost hopelessly idealistic people try to nurture and maintain a relationship amid the daily carnage in Baghdad. This is no sappy love story. There is, of course, affection, but there is also conflict as both show the stress of constant fear for their personal safety. This is also a rather brutal story of a society ripping itself apart. Particularly after the March 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, sectarian violence rages with increasing savagery. No one is immune. Supposed noncombatants must travel in security convoys protected by private security firms. Parhamovich’s death is emotionally wrenching, but it seems almost predictable in this moving but deeply disturbing story. --Jay Freeman
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