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Brave Deeds Paperback – August 1, 2017
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Praise for Brave Deeds:
“The satirical verve of Mr. Abrams’s first novel, Fobbit (2012), has been compared with Joseph Heller’s Catch 22. Like Fobbit . . . Brave Deeds . . . draws on the author’s twenty years as an Army journalist.”―Wall Street Journal (5 Soldiers-Turned-Authors to Know)
“Outstanding . . . With a little bit of humor and bumbling grace, these six soldiers magnify what is both beautiful and despairing about the American military . . . An honest encounter with the realities of what it means to serve in a war as a part of a collective that is not, essentially, collected.”―Missoulian
“Brave Deeds is a serious rendering of one of our more recent forays into military action . . . 254 pages of tension-filled drama about a group of American soldiers showing loyalty, bravery, and their own forms of human frailty as they persevere in what appears to be a doomed mission across hostile territory.”―Montana Standard
“When David Abrams . . . focuses his shrewd hawk eyes on six AWOL soldiers, you can bet on a mish-mash of comic sarcasm and parody marching in step with a story that will have you cringing and nearly crying out of laughter or sadness till the end.”―Raleigh News & Observer
“Describing the soldiers’ perilous journey while filling in details of their backgrounds and the military situation in Iraq, this excellent novel is believable, dramatic, and also quite funny.”―Library Journal (starred review)
“[Brave Deeds] builds to an emotionally wrenching and tension-filled climax . . . Filled with vivid characterizations and memorable moments, this novel―as with classic modern war literature from John Hersey’s Into the Valley to David Halberstam’s One Very Hot Day―turns a single military action into a microcosm of an entire war.”―Publishers Weekly
“Abrams follows his award-winning debut with a more empathetic but no less bitter take on the Iraq War . . . The M4 action explodes in short, spare declarative sentences, every bullet another shot at the cruel and illogical aspects of war. A powerful story on its surface, a soldier’s story laced with vulgarities and gallows humor, but also a story holding deeper interpretations of our troubled Middle Eastern misadventures.”―Kirkus Reviews
“Hilariously absurd, Abrams surprises with pathos and tenderness. This is military fiction at its truest.”―Booklist
“It is a story as old as The Odyssey―soldiers far from home on a less-than-rational and dangerous journey . . . With compact precision and the amusing patter of a sardonic narrator, Abrams captures the unusual histories of these ordinary men shuffling through Baghdad as they encounter the horrors of war. They may be AWOL on a personal mission outside command protocol, but they are heroes in their own ways and perform small brave deeds in the midst of half-baked chaos.”―Shelf Awareness
“Abrams gave himself a lot of moving parts to juggle and not one of them hit the ground―this is an excellent novel about war and about life.”―Emerging Writers Network
“Brave Deeds perfectly captures the strange mixture of camaraderie, humor, beauty and brutality experienced by men at war. It reads like a fever dream, like unvarnished documentary truth, and sometimes like both at once.”―Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment
“In one very full, very messed up and hair-raising day, Brave Deeds delivers everything we could ever ask for in a novel, no less than birth, death, and all points in between. David Abrams has written a flat-out brilliant book of the Iraq War, one that reads like a compact version of the Odyssey or Going After Cacciato. Soldiers on a journey―it’s one of humankind’s oldest stories, and Abrams has given us the latest dispatch from the field, to stunning effect.”―Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“At the beginning of Brave Deeds I was laughing out loud, and enjoying the feeling of being among the Army squad, even one making an insane walk through Baghdad. But by the end of the book I was silent: I was really undone by it. David Abrams has done something very powerful, drawing together the different layers of this story so beautifully, and drawing us down below the surface to a place of darkness and sadness. It’s a tour de force. Bravo.”―Roxana Robinson, author of Sparta
“I have never read another author with David Abrams’s uncanny knack for laugh-out-loud sarcasm one instant and gutting compassion in the next. If there’s a situation more emblematic of the forever wars―in league with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk―I can’t imagine it. By the end Abrams had me holding my heart in my hands. Brave Deeds is hilarious, subversive, devastating, beautiful, human, and written with the kind of skillful light touch we expect from master fiction writers.”―Andria Williams, author of The Longest Night
“A dizzying rush of a story, Brave Deeds serves as a testament to the manifold acts of courage and folly demanded by soldiering. David Abrams writes with moxie, and this odyssey across Baghdad cements his standing as one of our most indispensable chroniclers of contemporary war.”―Matt Gallagher, author of Youngblood and Kaboom: Embracing the Suck in a Savage Little War
About the Author
David Abrams, author of Fobbit, which was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a finalist for the Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, served in the U.S. Army for twenty years and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 as part of a public affairs team. His stories have appeared in Esquire, Glimmer Train, Narrative, and other publications. He lives in Butte, Montana.
Top customer reviews
For someone who couldn't stand to watch violence, whose high school classes didn't even get to WWI, I found myself watching war movies and reading a lot of war books. At first, our son liked The Longest Day and To Hell and Back. As he grew so did his sophistication. In his mid-teens, he read the book and watched the movie Black Hawk Down over and over. Which meant so did I.
My son's interests expanded my understanding of the world and politics--and human nature.
"Tell brave deeds of war."
Then they recounted tales,--
"There were stern stands
And bitter runs for glory."
Ah, I think there were braver deeds.
Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines
The title of David Abrams' new book Brave Deeds comes from a poem by Stephen Crane. What are these deeds that are braver than the 'bitter runs for glory'?
Told they could not attend the memorial service for their leader Staff Sergeant Morgan, six soldiers in Iraq decide to go AWOL. They had the mission all planned out: 'Borrow' a HUMMER, drive to the base where the service was being held, and return to face the consequences.
If something can go wrong it will. They did not count on the HUMMER breaking down in one of the most dangerous sectors of Bagdad. Or a grueling hike through hostile territory without even a map that in their panic they forgot to bring.
The trek takes eight hours, encountering people who sidetrack them into conflicts. But they stick to their mission, determined to pay honor to their fallen leader, "one team, one fight, one brotherhood," hopefully alive and intact at the end.
This journey tale brings the men into danger, but we also learn that their inner life journey is just as tortured. Each soldier's inner dialogue is heard in alternating chapters, without identification. Readers learn the men's fears and insecurities and pain, how they see each other, what has motivated them to go on this arduous, dangerous journey, and what Sgt. Morgan meant to them.
One soldier admits they are not 'great men risking death on a brave mission'. No, we are '****** up and flawed' he thinks.
Morgan seen through the eyes of his men is a vivid character. Some saw his death as heroic, those who believed in "the First Church of Bush". Others were there for the paycheck, his death just sad and senseless. His death affected each one, and they now they risk their lives to honor him.
Reading the novel I was sometimes disturbed, sometimes I laughed. I felt compassion and revulsion, concern and sorrow. At the end I was moved.
The novel was inspired by a true story, as Abrams discusses here.
I received a free book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Like all soldiers, the six have definite opinions about the stupidity of their superior officers. It is clear, however that the soldiers are not all that bright themselves. Nor do they invariably distinguish themselves as representatives of the United States. Apart from stealing a Humvee (not smart) and abandoning the Humvee and the equipment it contains to whomever finds it (really not smart), a soldier named Fish clubs a civilian female with his rifle for no reason other than his psychopathic desire to kill and maim. I give Abrams credit for not shying away from the fact that some soldiers do not deserve to be thanked for their service.
The story of the stroll is frequently interrupted to tell background stories about the individual soldiers or the dead sergeant, or to relate dreams or snippets of seemingly random thought. An unfortunate percentage of the interruptions come across as filler rather than purposeful contributions to the story. Some of the stories humanize the soldiers (one cheated on his wife while she was delivering his baby, one can’t stop thinking about male genitals that are not his own) but for the most part, the characters suffer from a lack of development.
Putting aside the interruptions, the plot is: soldiers who have no way to communicate walk through Baghdad and things happen to them. They come across cellphones on their journey but apparently their training didn’t include how to make a phone call, or perhaps they don’t know the Army’s phone number. The first eventful thing occurs beyond the midway point, when an Iraqi offers to show the soldiers where his cousin is making bombs. After that, the story suffers from fewer interruptions and becomes progressively more interesting, if not particularly deep.
The attitudes reflected in Brave Deeds (“get out of our way or our big American boots will stomp you”) illustrate why the American occupation failed to win the hearts and minds of Iraqis. Again, I commend Abrams for not whitewashing that. The story has merit and the second half has some entertainment value, so I recommend Brave Deeds, but I can’t regard it as a significant contribution to the literature of war.
Abrams writes the book in an odd style; its written from the perspective of all six soldiers mashed together into a singular thought. While unique and interesting at times, at other times I wanted to read how the individuals felt about a situation or in a moment, not how the collective reacted. Because the singular perspective of the more likable characters isn't displayed, it's harder to sympathize with their tough decisions along the way. The story carries these men through dangerous areas providing action and tension that provides excitement. There are no pulled punches on describing the harsh realities of war and while I appreciated the candidness, it could be tough for some readers to work through.
While I had a tough time connecting personally to these men, I enjoyed their mission and admired the purpose of honoring their fallen leader, who was a father figure to most of them. BRAVE DEEDS reminds the reader of the grim conditions of war and creates appreciation for the non military lives most of us lead.
Thank you to Grove Atlantic, David Abrams, and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!