Top critical review
A story needing to be shared, but almost ruined by the awkward telling...
on June 2, 2012
my friend J.C. Clark bought a copy of this for me, and even went to a signing and had the author inscribe it to my wife and I. I was a reluctant draftee during the Vietnam War, and have an interest in non-fiction combat tales. The view of battle and bloodshed as refected in an Army chaplain's eyes, heart and soul is one only rarely told before. How one comforts killers when "Thou Shalt Not Kill" is one of the ten big rules for life is a complex matter of conscience. I think Chaplain Bryan is probably wonderful at his job, and a fine man away from it. He has courage, of course, and hard-won character as well. What his months in Iraq deserved was first-class treatment from a major publisher, and the talents of a top editor, even probably a professional "ghost writer." There are many moments in the book when profound things occur, but they are examined too briefly. Many more moments are truly mundane, especially the oft-quoted simple greetings between officers and men, or pleasant compliments exchanged. Those weren't needed at all, and slowed the momentum of the military engagements mightily. The book would have benefited from eliminating the sub-headings, which make "chapters" out of only a half-page or more in spots. It became so tedious by the time I was 60 percent through it that I began skimming, which shocked me. My wish for this volume is that it be "discovered" by the aforementioned major publisher, and that some people who know commercial book-creation as well as Chaplain Bryan knows war and God get with him and probe his memories to come up with an account of his Iraq experience which is just as truthful as this one, but much better focused. The essence of what Bryan did for the troops stays the same through all wars in all nations, and deserves to be explained in power-filled prose. Our chaplain here probably is intimate with "power-filled preaching" but prose is a different challenge. Compare "Memoirs From Babylon" for instance, to "Flags of Our Fathers" in which the son of a marine hero had the help of a writing pro. That kind of boost could make Chaplain Bryan's account of his year in the "Triangle of Death" a masterpiece, instead of just a valid but uncompelling rendering.