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Dust to Dust: A Memoir Hardcover – March 20, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Beautifully told. . . . There is not one bad sentence in this book. . . . I cannot wait to see what [Busch] writes next.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“Extraordinary. . . . It is impossible to read any part of this work and not be moved. . . . [Dust to Dust] is one to be savored. Don’t fail to read it.” (New York Journal of Books)

“[Busch’s] portrayal of the war in Iraq is unsentimental and immediate.” (New Yorker)

“Essential Iraq War reading. . . . The conflict between Busch’s pacifist upbringing and his evolution into a decorated Marine rests at the heart of this fine memoir.” (Men's Journal)

“Beautifully written. . . . Captivating. . . . It’s fascinating to journey through [these] literary landscapes as time passes, swirls back, and eddies like a stream before flowing away.” (Seattle Times)

“A beautiful and powerful meditation on combat, profound loss, and mortality.” (Newark Star Ledger)

“An invigorating and moving take on the war memoir.” (Wisconsin State Journal)

“Busch writes with eloquence about his tours of combat in Iraq, and seamlessly blends the human and natural characteristics of war.” (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“Intriguing. . . . A worthwhile read.” (Buffalo News)

Dust to Dust is not a typical contemporary war memoir. . . . It partakes of the pastoral strain associated with World War I trench-poets like Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas.” (New York Times Book Review)

“[A] must-read memoir.” (Details)

“A remarkable book—part military memoir, part childhood reminiscence. . . . Busch is filled with complicated and fascinating contradictions.” (Salon.com)

“A beautiful meditation on war, loss, and the larger questions of life and death.” (Huffington Post)

“[Busch] writes with the precision of a stonemason, the courage of a combat veteran, and the inquisitiveness of an artist. . . . A haunting meditation on time, memory, and death.” (Baltimore City Paper)

“Busch carries us on a haunting, humorous, and poignant journey.” (Publishers Weekly)

Dust to Dust is startlingly good.” (The SunBreak)

“A meditation on the literal and figurative borders of life—country to country, river to lake, soil to dust, wood to ash, life to death, blood to bones, child to man—[that] explores the wonders of the natural world and our solitary lives within it.” (Hour Detroit magazine)

“Elegiac, funny, wistful, deep, and wonderfully human, Dust to Dust moved me to laughter and tears, sometimes simultaneously. . . . After reading this book, you will want to go outside and really look at our world.” (Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War)

Dust to Dust is a wonderful book, original in concept and stunningly written, a soldier’s memoir that is about soldiering and much else besides. The last two dozen pages are a tour de force, a breathtaking meditation on loss and remembrance, dust to dust.” (Ward Just)

“Busch is a brilliant prose stylist for whom every pause counts, a man of three worlds—the heart, the mind, the earth. Dust to Dust is a stunning literary work about this mysterious trinity, and a return to home.” (Doug Stanton, bestselling author of Horse Soldiers and In Harm's Way)

“This brave soldier with his singular sensibility . . . builds us a fort we’re loath to leave.” (Mary Karr, author of The Liars' Club, Cherry, and Lit)

“Busch is a poet with the soul of a civil engineer, and for as long as his body sustains him, he is the perfect soldier. I loved every page of this mesmerizing book.” (Bonnie Jo Campbell, bestselling author of Once Upon a River)

“An imaginative, original meditation on mortality that reaches beyond the particulars of the Iraq war and the present day to grasp the universal. It is a literary gem.” (Philip Caputo, author of A Rumor of War)

From the Back Cover

Dust to Dust is an extraordinary memoir about ordinary things: life and death, peace and war, the adventures of childhood and the revelations of adulthood. Benjamin Busch—a decorated U.S. Marine Corps infantry officer who served two combat tours in Iraq, an actor on The Wire, and the son of celebrated novelist Frederick Busch—has crafted a lasting book to stand with the finest work of Tim O'Brien or Annie Dillard.

In elemental-themed chapters—water, metal, bone, blood—Busch weaves together a vivid record of a pastoral childhood in rural New York; Marine training in North Carolina, Ukraine, and California; and deployment during the worst of the war in Iraq, as seen firsthand. But this is much more than a war memoir. Busch writes with great poignancy about the resonance of a boyhood spent exploring rivers and woods, building forts, and testing the limits of safety. Most of all, he brings enormous emotional power to his reflections on mortality: in a helicopter going down; wounded by shrapnel in Ramadi; dealing with the sudden death of friends in combat and of parents back home.

Dust to Dust is an unforgettable meditation on life and loss, and how the curious children we were remain alive in us all.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062014846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062014849
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #840,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Benjamin Busch's memoir, DUST TO DUST, is a piece of work that is at once puzzling and moving. Puzzling because I wondered how a Vassar graduate who had majored in studio art could seem so easily conversant about things like soil and stone, metal and water, ash and bone - things one would normally associate with earth sciences, geology or archaeology. And moving because, by using these elements as primary symbols and vehicles for telling his life story, he touches too on the pain of extended family separations, injuries and wounds, loss of comrades-in-arms and loved ones, and the grief and hard-won wisdom that follow.

Busch tells his tale in a spiraling, circular narrative, which jumps from his solitary childhood enterprises and adventures to his war-time service as a Marine officer in Iraq, then back to that childhood in upstate New York and Maine. He tells too of his college years, interspersed with more tales of his military training in Virginia, North Carolina and California, his deployments to Ukraine and Korea, and trips as a child and young man to England. What emerges is a portrait of a boy and a man with a boundless curiosity about the world he inhabits and how he fits into it. His whole life Busch has struggled against rules and expectations, endlessly experimenting and daring to be different. The son of a novelist (Frederick Busch) father and librarian mother, Busch grew up with a healthy respect for books, but was drawn more to exploring the forests, fields and streams that surrounded their rural home, building walls, forts and bridges in a childhood marked by an extraordinary unstructured freedom foreign to today's children.
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Format: Hardcover
Benjamin Busch is a unique character. Right now, there's a photographic exhibit on the museum circuit of his haunting visual images from his two tours as a Marine Corps officer in Iraq. It's called, "The Art in War," and it's a stunning tribute to one Marine who really saw what was happening around him. Benjamin Busch's memoir, "Dust to Dust," takes this to another level. It is not the easiest book you'll every read. It makes you think. He talks of the futility of war: "The traces of war were being absorbed. The dead had already forgotten being killed, the survivors were slowly forgetting the dead. We would leave without leaving anything." He talks of the absurdity of invading a foreign land, and the danger: "A little boy delivered a note and then vanished...The judge read it in a whisper. The fan in the concrete room didn't work, and the whisper sounded loud. "By the Lion of Iraq, Major Busch will die tonight." ...I had already convinced myself of what I was about to say. 'I cannot be killed by conventional means...' I told them. I was pleased with the language I had chosen, especially since I thought it might well be the very last thing I was ever to say." Benjamin Busch's, "Dust to Dust" is not your typical war memoir - it's so much more. Profound really. "I have been welcomed home many times, but I have never come all the way back from the places I have been." I had to stop and write that one down and ponder my own many homecomings - Vietnam, the Gulf, Afghanistan -- never quite coming all the way back. A few readers may find the challenge of such thoughts daunting, a turn-off. For those who can take it, this is a memoir that will leave you feeling a strange sense of accomplishment, of self-awareness; of being more than when you began. Well done, Benjamin Busch.
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Format: Hardcover
There are memoirs and there a Memoirs - usually those relating life experiences come toward the end of life, providing a sage exploration of what has made existence of the reporter on the planet unique, just before finally closing the eyes in a terminal sleep. Some are written as confessions or as leaving clues for the obituary writer whose concern it is to sum up a life soon completely spent.

Benjamin Busch in DUST TO DUST writes more about life as it is currently molding his psyche, admixing moments of childhood memories with adult confrontations with such ominous beasts as wars and the threat of annihilation, yet in the end his book settles into the rank of great literature - a book so thoughtfully unique, so eloquently written, that instead of a Memoir (and one deserving the capital M) Benjamin Busch has written an extended poem that embraces all the interstices of life as it is being remembered and experienced in as completely involved a fashion as a learned sage of much older years.

One of the many facets of this book is Busch's decision to divide his book into chapters that are based on the themes of elements - Arms, Water, Metal, Soil, Bone, Wood, Stones, Blood, Ash - a wise technique of traveling from childhood to adulthood in each chapter, ingeniously focusing each level of memory regression based on an aspect of his young years that became part of his direction toward revealing reality as it feels at the present. Childhood preoccupation with fighting and creating battleships and airplanes and the other accoutrements of a young (very bright) boy's mind slowly emerge toward his life as a soldier.
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