AUTHOR: Phil Klay
DATE FINISHED: April 21
BLURB: 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.
In "Redeployment", a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died." In "After Action Report", a Lance Corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn't commit, in order that his best friend will be unburdened. A Morturary Affairs Marine tells about his experiences collecting remains—of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both. A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel. And in the darkly comic "Money as a Weapons System", a young Foreign Service Officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball. 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.
REVIEW: As far as anthologies go, this was very intense. I don't tend to read a lot of post-WWII war fiction, but this won the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction so I gave it a chance. There's a wide variety, but to be honest, a lot of the narrators sounded very similar, making it more difficult to differentiate the varying experiences. Plus, there's a ton of military vernacular. It helps to enrich the verisimilitude, but it leans toward overwhelming when the terms are unfamiliar. I still enjoyed most of the stories, though. Pacing is excellent, there's enough humor to break up all the bleak action, and even though it's about Iraq and Afghanistan, it's not overly political.
SQUARE: An anthology of short stories (category substitution for Chosen Based on the Cover)