Oh, this book. I didn’t give much thought to the winner of the National Book Award this year. All I knew was that it wasn’t All the Light You Cannot See (still on my holds list) or Station Eleven (which I thought was going to be tough to beat), but Reployment, a collection of short stories about Marines fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, does so without pausing to take a breath. Thanks to Bonnie reviewing it earlier this year and my love of The Things They Carried, I knew this was a must read.
I read all but the last story of this on one plane flight (which I read once I landed). I couldn’t put the stories down. They are brutal, honest, and fairly quick tales from the front lines, to leave, to marines coping after leaving the armed forces. Klay never pulls his punches, which you discover in the very first story as the soldier, newly home from a tour of Iraq, needs to put down the old family dog while coping with the idea that they used to shoot Iraqi dogs for something to do. Yeah, I don’t do animals getting hurt anywhere, but Klay makes each story so personal and human you feel for every soldier. My favorite story was the one of a discharged soldier now in college explaining to a newly Muslim (that age when you try out all sorts of religions in college) girl about his part in the war providing propaganda and psychological warfare. It was a fascinating story showing that war isn’t always just firefights.
Overall, I think this is an incredibly important book to read. While the stories are fiction, Klay, a marine who did several tours, is clearly speaking from experience and the experience of others. Reading stories from the soldiers perspective really takes the last decade and puts it in a different light.