From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This beautifully edited compilation of writings from modern warriors and their loved ones contains a wonderful range of voices and experience. Culled from an NEA call for the personal stories of service members and their families-a call that resulted in some ten thousand pages of material-the writing on display might make one think war transformed these untrained writers into fearless poets, ready and able to tackle the big topics: heartbreak, courage, sheer pluck and God-awful horror. Divided into six sections, including "Heading into Combat," the "Daily Grind" and "Life on the Home Front," Carroll has pulled together dozens of unique voices to achieve the "integrity and authenticity ... of a full spectrum of viewpoints and experiences." The results, a series of short, charged narratives that generally range from one to ten pages, are heartening and heartbreaking. In "Reclamation," a seasoned marine is ordered to clean a cemetery, "little more than a sunken acre of rotting garbage and donkey carcasses... a nasty task that seemed to have no direct benefit to the Iraqi people," which would become for him a pivotal experience in building hope and honoring sacrifice. In "Shallow Hands," a 27-year-old Marine attempts to explain the bitter divide between those who've fought and those who have not, while confessing, "I've been drinking steadily since coming back from the war." In the remarkable "Dover," readers go into the enormous military mortuary in Deleware that receives home-bound bodies, learning how one of the war's "politically sanitized phrases" like "the fallen hero" can reclaim its meaning. This collection provides a truly multi-faceted and agenda-free look at the ongoing conflict from the Americans who lived it, and deserves a large audience.
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*Starred Review* This history-making project records feelings about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even as conflicts continue in those nations. Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the project brought together some of the nation's most distinguished writers, including Tobias Wolff and Marilyn Nelson, and the men and women (and their spouses) fighting in the Middle East. The result is an incredibly wide range of opinions and emotions about U.S. policy in the Middle East, the war on terrorism, and the duties and responsibilities of citizens and the military. In 100 pieces of poetry, essays, letters, e-mails, plays, and journal entries, soldiers recall the awful thrill in the threat of killing or being killed, the deaths of buddies, and the cultural and psychological adjustments to a strange land. The book is divided into sections, including the war in the beginning, when 9/11 fueled certainty among the military; the campaigns to win the hearts and minds of Afghanis and Iraqis; the daily terror and boredom of war; efforts to sustain family life on the home front; and the joy and anxiety of homecoming. Intimate perspectives from the people on the frontlines. Vanessa Bush
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