I feel like it has been forever since I did a book review, and it’s mostly because this book took me forever to get through. So I actually started this book on May 1st and only just now finished it today, on May 15th, and the book is only 184 pages. Now I want to preface this by saying that I don’t hate the book by any means, it is interesting and sad and brutally honest, but I had trouble getting into it and it really just didn’t hold my attention.
So the book itself is a series of post 9/11/01 short stories that follow different characters who were all soldiers and deals with how war effected them and in turn effected their lives afterwards as well as their families. Each short story follows a different character and some of them take place still during war in the Middle East, while others occur afterwards in the States. Although each story does follow a different character, the characters all have something in common, other then the fact that they were soldiers of course, they’re all dealing with the mental and emotional repercussions of war.
My favorite short in the novel is “Visitors”. “Visitors” follows a mother, Jeanne, who visits her son, Rob, each week in prison. Her son was a soldier who shortly after coming back home, gets into a fight with another man and accidentally hits him so hard that he causes the man’s brain to bleed and in turn kills him. Jeanne really has it tough in this short because she lost her son when he had to go away to war and then so shortly after he returns, she loses him again and throughout the story she tries so hard to reconnect with him through her visits, but it seems he is a shell of the man that he used to be. But Jeanne suspects that it’s not just the death of the man Rob accidentally killed that haunts him, but also the things that he saw and did while overseas. “Visitors” is really a heartbreaking tale from a mother’s perspective of what it is to have a child who is dealing with the after-effects of war.
My least favorite short was “Sea Bass”. “Sea Bass” comes from the perspective of a son, Kyle, of a man, Jim, who has a hard time readjusting to life. The story follows Kyle as he goes to spend some time with his father and he sees how is father is kind of broken in ways. Jim has become somewhat of an alcoholic and is irresponsible which leads to a couple of tragedies. This particular short was just really hard to get into for me. Neither Jim nor Kyle were particularly likable characters for me, and although I think that was the point with Jim, it just really made it hard to sympathize for the man. I just didn’t really care for things that happened, and how he dealt with them. Though, I will say I kind of liked the ending, Jim ends up re-enlisting and you’re led to believe that that is exactly what he wants and where he should be.
I didn’t hate this book but I didn’t love it. Some of the shorts were much better then others, but one thing that I think took away from the stories was that they all had very similar tones. Although, each story is unique with its own set of characters and plots, the tone of all of the characters was very similar and one note. I also felt like some of the stories ended very abruptly. Of course, I know the book is a series of short stories, however, there were some shorts that didn’t really explain things enough in a way that left you feeling satisfied and I didn’t care for that. I will say, however, that the book is very honest and I feel that it really shows how war can effect a person and the damage that that can have not only on them but also their families. I think part of what makes this book so honest is the experience that Luke Mogelson has himself with war. He was a medic for the National Guard and then he has also spent years in journalism writing on the topic so the stories and the characters do feel very real, and I think part of that is because he probably took some of his ideas from real life. I also think the book deals with PTSD in a very honest manner, many of the characters very obviously suffer from this and each of them deal with it in different ways. All-in-all, I think this book is very interesting and I would recommend it to anybody with an interest in war fiction.
Although the opinions up above are my own, this book was sent to me for review by Blogging For Books. I would like to thank them, as well as Crown Publishing, the publisher of this book, for sending me this for review.