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Redeployment Hardcover – March 4, 2014
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Is Phil Klay's debut short story collection the best book about the Iraq War? --Kevin Nguyen
“Success was a matter of perspective. In Iraq it had to be.” This opening line, from one of the stories in Phil Klay's impressive debut collection, Redeployment, encapsulates what the book does best: through the many viewpoints represented by his twelve stories, Klay gives us not just a gripping portrait of the Iraq War but a glimpse into the true human cost of war, abroad and at home.
Though the United States entered Afghanistan and Iraq over a decade ago, novels about those conflicts have only begun gaining critical and commercial attention in the past few years. Kevin Powers's The Yellow Birds, was one of the most talked about books of 2012; the same year, Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. Both books were finalists for the National Book Award and included in our own Best of the Year list.
Powers and Fountain took very different approaches to the Iraq War. The Yellow Birds is a moving, often lyrical story that follows the tradition of in-the-trenches war fiction, taking hints from such classics as The Things They Carried all the way back to All Quiet on the Western Front (Powers is a veteran who received his MFA after returning to the U.S.); in contrast, Billy Lynn is more of a satire, taking place on home turf as the surviving members of Bravo Squad are paraded out during the halftime show of a Dallas Cowboys game.
Tonally and thematically, Redeployment falls somewhere in between these two novels. In its diversity of viewpoints, Klay has composed a complicated portrait of the war and its psychological effect on Iraq and at home in the States. Like Yellow Birds, these stories are moving and subtly philosophical; like Billy Lynn, Redeployment isn't afraid to be funny, to be brash.
Read the full review on Omnivoracious.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, March 2014: I defy any readers of Phil Klay’s stunning Redeployment to a) put it down and b) limit the number of “wows” they utter while reading it. These twelve stories, are all about the Iraq War or its aftermath; they are so direct, so frank, they will impress readers who have read all they care to about the war as well as those who thought they couldn’t stand to read about it at all. The strength of Klay’s stories lies in his unflinching, un-PC point of view, even for the soldiers he so clearly identifies with and admires. For example, one veteran tells a guy in a bar about a particularly harrowing war experience. When the stranger, moved, declares his respect for our troops, the soldier responds, “I don’t want you to respect what I’ve been through. I want you to be disgusted.” Klay is fearless; he eviscerates platitude and knee-jerk politics every chance he gets. “[A fellow soldier] was the one guy in the squad who thought the country wouldn’t be better off if we just nuked it until the desert turned into a flat plane of grass,” he writes. These stories are at least partly autobiographical, and yet, for all their verisimilitude, they’re also shaped by an undefinable thing called art. Phil Klay is a writer to watch. --Sara Nelson
Top Customer Reviews
But as I came through the Vietnam era in college and saw my students go off to wars in the Middle East as a teacher, I became more and more obsessed with understanding war.
REDEPLOYMENT by Phil Klay gives a variety of perspectives of war. Because he uses short stories and a number of narrators, Klay can move from returned vet at the height of his PTSD to bored Foreign Service Officer trying to put Iraqi kids into baseball uniforms because someone upstairs wants a PR picture. Never mind that the child rounded up may have been working on an IED the day before. The plight of the soldier, his amped up emotions and his training to be vigilant, to KILL or BE KILLED, overrides all other themes. Whether a man has endured burns all over his body or has been awarded a Medal of Valor, the wars of this century have marked a generation of men (and women, whom Klay acknowledges) as surely as WWI marked Wilfred Owens, the poet.
This is a bruising, snarling, hair-tearing blast of the breaths of death and war. Phil Klay, you speak of what you know.
Though mankind does not seem to learn from the history of war, voices like Klay's help to remind those safely watching the evening news that the soldiers are people's sons, daughters, husbands, wives and the "collateral damage" includes children and families with no interest in politics or global strategies. Klay's narrators give us the shifting tides of war with the constant of harm, ruin, and pain.
While there is not a false note to be found in any of these tales, the one that I found perhaps most affecting was "Prayer in the Furnace," told by a Catholic priest, a Marine Corps chaplain whose own faith is severely tested as he struggles to give aid to Marines severely traumatized physically, emotionally and spiritually by repeated combat tours. Men whose brains have been buffeted by blasts from IEDs and whose consciences are deadened and wracked by unspeakable atrocities witnessed - and committed - on a near-daily basis. The chaplain's role in a combat unit seems sadly marginalized, however, and although he turns for guidance to the writings of St John of the Cross and Augustine, in the end he feels frustrated, powerless and ashamed. (This story in particular I felt could be the basis for an equally powerful novel.)
There are also stories here of veterans trying to adjust, to assimilate back into civilian life; and struggling, feeling set apart, different. A former JAG officer who never saw combat, but did the paperwork, now a law student ready to enter a high-paying career, still feeling "more like a Marine out of the Corps than I'd felt while in it ... to everyone I met, I was 'the Marine.Read more ›
The story deftly avoids the maudlin tears-of-joy theme that would have been convenient and easy to exploit as Marines are reunited with their families and loved ones. Instead, Klay gives us a realistic mix of humor, jubilation, sadness, humiliation, desperation, and the vague but soon-to-pass discomfort that comes from being reunited with those closest to us who have become, for the short term, a bit unfamiliar. Things like kissing your wife or hugging your child are not quite as automatically easy and taken for granted as they were seven months before. In most instances, things will return quickly to normal, but for now even the once intimately familiar takes a little getting accustomed to.
When I reviewed Fire and Forget, I noted that the story Redeployment is one of very few works of fiction that, at special places, made me turn away, wince, and feel like crying. The way Klay melds military training with love for an old friend that has suffered long enough is mesmerizing. Cold steel, hot lead, a serene wooded area, and the instantaneous termination of pain perfectly define the end of a relationship characterized by real love. It's something you can't imagine until you've read it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a collection of short stories. All but one of the stories are first-person accounts of a soldier's experience during or after deployment in Iraq. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mary Soon Lee
I was in Vietnam - Sights and sounds are portrayed realistically - Cynicism as wellPublished 1 month ago by Sonny Dellinger
I've never had to experience the trauma of war, but--and I hope that this is not too bold of an assumption--this book has made me feel as though I have come as close to... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kathleen Jennings
As a Viet Nam vet I have become absolutely sick and Dam tired of this country going to war and killing off good men for what?? Read morePublished 2 months ago by Greg Weiss