TBR reviewer: Cathy
ending – which was a bit of a jaw-dropper. I thought it was rather clever
and very definitely worth reading.
I was attracted by the book's hook; a war veteran, Frank, travels across
the Californian desert to New York to meet up with a girlfriend and drop in on
his close ex-comrades along the way. I was keen to read how a war veteran copes
with 'normal' life after being part of indescribable horrors—ones no young man
today really imagines he will witness—and how Frank would readjust,
mentally. Having only been to America a couple of times, I thought too, I
might learn about a different part of this vast country.
The novella is written in the first person and in the present tense (although
it did once wander off course). Frank describes how he ended up fighting
for his country; I'm not so sure that in the beginning it was for all the right
reasons, but certainly, by the time his second tour of duty was over,
the patriotism of this young man is very evident. As he travels across the desert
and stops to catch up with his friends or to rest, he encounters various people
who realise from his appearance that he is or was a Marine. It is on these
occasions he discovers an indifferent attitude to war and those that serve in
it—an attitude that riles him somewhat, believing he deserves more for putting
his young life on the line for his country and it engenders a level of cynicism
in him. He is keen to get to his destination and the lovely girlfriend he
is eager to spend maybe a little time with, maybe a lifetime with, who knows, and
to reacquaint himself with civilian life, albeit with a different perspective. His last port of call, however, gives him some answers to where his destiny lies……..
This story isn't great literature – the language is harsh,regional and rough-edged. The sentiments, however, are clear and thought-provoking. Just as you begin to think that this is a hard-hitting, but sometimes poignant collection of reflections from a hardened war veteran which looks as if it will end rather sweetly……you get a metaphoric slap in the face.
As it happens, I didn't learn anymore about America's geography. However, despite Frank's perception of his own compatriots' lackadaisical attitude to war, personally, I have never undervalued the sacrifice made by men and women who put their lives at such tremendous risk and the respect, awe and admiration I have for them is beyond measure.
beyond. I’m stuck in rush hour and something is off. If Colorado is in the Wild
West, it sure doesn’t feel like it. I’ve passed several ski resorts and seen too
many damn rich people on vacation with their Salomon skis on Thule roof racks,
Botox injections, Dior sunglasses, and L.L.Bean jackets. This is not my
Billboard after billboard advertises car insurance, iCrap, and cell phone plans. We’re
engaged in a brutal fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, but everything here’s a grand
diversion set up to keep people boxed in as dedicated consumers.
I’m on my way to visit Mark Thomas, who’s going to school up in Boulder. He was one of my guys, and a damn smart dude. He knew politics inside and out. He was in
the Marines because he came from a messed up family and needed the money for
college. It’s good to see he’s using the GI Bill to do what he really wants. He
has served his time, and I’m glad he’s getting something back for it.
During chow he’d talk about why we shouldn’t be in Iraq. He went on and on about how there are no WMDs, that we have no business being involved in the Middle East, and that the war effort is one big joke. I usually ignored that hippie shit, but
Mark made some interesting points from time to time. To avoid getting the shit
beaten out of him, he never mentioned his opinions to anyone else. During Mark’s
diatribes, I’d usually give acknowledging grunts and nods, but whenever he
veered into the ridiculous, I’d look to the side as a subtle way of showing my
disagreement. Even though he didn’t believe in what the White House and Pentagon
were doing, he was still a good Marine.
Mark told me to meet him in the middle of his “guerilla activism”at this park on
campus. I had no idea what the hell he was talking about, nor what to
Pulling off the freeway into Boulder, I see lots of people walking dogs outside fancy
houses and coffee shops. It reminds me of when we used to go up to Ann Arbor to
party in high school. But this town has broader lawns, smaller dogs, and nicer
cars. I’m used to seeing college kids with couches on their porches and beer
bottles tossed onto the sidewalks, but this place, shit, it’s too nice. I pull
into an overpriced parking structure and set out to find Mark.
I hear drums banging away in the distance, so I figure that must be the source of
this “guerilla activism.” On the walk over, I pass all sorts of multicolored
flyers stapled to telephone poles that announce the protest tonight against the
war. The flyers proclaim nonsense like“1,000,000Dead in Iraq and Counting”
(that’s ridiculous), “No Blood for Oil!”(we never put Iraqi oil into our
vehicles), and “Fuck the War” (whatever). I walk by kids who wear University of
Colorado sweatshirts, carry massive backpacks with “Obama for Change in ‘08”
buttons dangling from the zippers, and shuffle around in blown-out flip-flops.