Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: Redeployment by Phil Klay

Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos. 

 These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming. Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing. Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss. Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation"--

I almost rebelled when I saw that another book about the current Middle East war was on the list of those I had to read for the Maine Readers Choice Awards panel, but books don't win the National Book Award unless they're good, so after seeing the publisher's blurb above, I began reading. This one is everything everyone says it is. Klay has given us a series of characters in inter-related short stories portraying hope and hopelessness, horror and honor and comradeship and patriotism and empty nothingness. It is as much a book about coming home as it is about re-deploying.

By showing us the struggles of several different players who don't always star in the war flicks, Klay allows us to soak up the utter distress experienced by troops who are sent into the fracas that is Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to ground troops engaged in the daily task of avoiding IEDs, we see a chaplain whose Christian beliefs are sorely tested by his inability to provide any true comfort or support to soldiers trying to deal with the emotional impacts of death and destruction; we get a glimpse of the non-military component of our foreign policy by accompanying a Foreign Service officer as he tries to help Iraquis "improve their lives" by learning to play baseball; and we accompany a mortuary officer as he collects the remains of victims -both US and Iraqi.

Redeployment is a book to be read, to be re-read, to be discussed, and most of all to be taken to heart by all who haven't had the privilege of serving.  It is only after absorbing some of the emotion Klay confronts us with that our rote offering of "thank you for your service" will have any depth.

My thanks to Penguin Press for furnishing the review copy of this one.

Title: Redeployment
Author: Phil Klay
Publisher:Penguin Press HC, The (2014), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 304 pages
Genre: Fiction - short stories
Subject: War stories
Setting: Iraq/Afghanistan
Source: review copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book now? It is on the longlist for the Maine Readers Choice Award


Post a Comment

Welcome, thanks for stopping by. Now that you've heard our two cents, perhaps you have a few pennies to throw into the discussion. Due to a bunch more anonymous spam getting through, I've had to disallow anonymous comments. I try to respond to all comments posing a question, but may not always get to you right away.