Thursday, October 30, 2014

book review: Redeployment by Phil Klay

The backstory: Redeployment, the debut short story collection by Phil Klay, has been honored twice by the National Book Award. It's on the 2014 shortlist, and it's also a 5 Under 35 pick.

The basics: This thematic collection of short stories focuses on soldiers fighting in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Klay served in the U.S. Marine Corps and in the Iraq War.

My thoughts: There's been a surge of fiction about the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars in the past few years. I've read and reviewed several titles here: Eleven Days by Lea Carpenter, Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, and You Know When The Men Are Gone by Siobhan Fallon. Just as I've come to compare books about World War II to one another, I've also apparently reached the threshhold where stories about the Iraq and Afghanistan cause me to reflect and compare them against one another. In this sense, Phil Klay is at a disadvantage, as the bar has been set pretty high with my enjoyment of these other titles. He's also at a disadvantage because I typically prefer novels and memoirs to short stories. Still, I started this collection with excitement.

Redeployment, unsurprisingly, is not a cheery or uplifting collection. It's raw and gritty, and it's not a sentimental look at war or soldiers as heroes. Its characters are often crude and misogynistic (note: writing authentically misogynistic characters does not mean Klay himself is misogynistic.) Reading Redeployment is an uncomfortable experience. Perhaps it was more uncomfortable for me as I read some of it while holding my baby. Imagining him as a soldier in eighteen years adds a curious new layer to my reading of stories about mostly young men.

Favorite passage:  "How drunk the girl was, whether she really wanted you or whether she let you, or was scared of you, that doesn’t bother most Marines when they get laid on a Friday night. Not as far as I can tell. I doubt it bothers college frat kids, either. But walking back from Rachel’s, it started to really bother me." from "Bodies"

The verdict: Redeployment provides unflinching looks at the experiences of soldiers who fought in the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Its insight is often dreary, but it isn't necessarily surprising. Despite my experience reading and watching films about these wars, the darkness in Redeployment often seeped in deeper than other have. Redeployment offers important insights and perspectives, but its stories are seldom easy to read or digest.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 304 pages
Publication date: March 4, 2014
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Redeployment from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Phil Klay's website and follow him on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

1 comment:

  1. I was going to write a post about all of these books I read as well since it seems I've read a lot (war books in general, but some about these wars). I am looking forward to reading these even though I realize they are not cheery. I'm glad to see it still got 4 out of 5 stars!


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