Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War, by Colum McCann

Barnes & Noble

These stories aren’t pretty and they aren’t for the faint of heart. They are realistic, haunting and shocking. And they are all unforgettable. Television reports, movies, newspapers and blogs about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have offered images of the fighting there. But this collection offers voices—powerful voices, telling the kind of truth that only fiction can offer.

What makes the collection so remarkable is that all of these stories are written by those who were there, or waited for them at home. The anthology, which features a Foreword by National Book Award winner Colum McCann, includes the best voices of the our wars’ generation: Brian Turner, whose poem
Hurt Locker was the movie’s inspiration; Colby Buzzell, whose book My War resonates with countless veterans; Siobhan Fallon, whose book You Know When the Men Are Gone echoes the joy and pain of the spouses left behind; Matt Gallagher, whose book Kaboom captures the hilarity and horror of the modern military experience; and nine others.

The first thing I want to make clear is that my rating has nothing to do with the content and the events experienced by the authors.  I am a pacifist, but I greatly admire the men and women who fight for our country and our safety.

This anthology started out promising.  The second storyTips for a Smooth Transition, by Siobhan Fallon—is my favorite and deserves five stars.  I love how she transitioned back and forth between the story and the written advice given to military spouses.  

I would give four stars to The Train, by Mariette Kalinowski.  Her writing is beautiful and I could feel the desperation and anxiety of her homecoming.  Another four stars to Raid, by Ted Janis.

Things started going downhill halfway through.  Television, by Roman Skaskiw was hard to understand because each person's rank was used over and over and over.  In one sentence, "Sergeant" was used three times for only two people.  

It was also at this point that stories stopped including any sort of resolution and became simply a recounting of events that occurred: "First we did this, then that, and then this other thing, and then that thing over there, the end."  There was no conflict (I'm not talking about the war here, but the conflict within the story that sets you up for the resolution), no "oh, wow" moment, no conclusion that left the reader sated.  It was more of a "that's it?" than a "holy crap."

The notable exception to the lackluster second half is When Engaging Targets, Remember, by Gavin Ford Kovite.  I do love a good choose-your-own adventure story.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

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