Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Damage Done

Every once in a while, I feel like I should review some fiction. Not very often -- I prefer nonfiction, and get discouraged by all the fiction reviews I see. But I found a novel by Walter Dean Myers this month. I enjoy both his nonfiction and his fiction. Sunrise Over Fallujah is about the invasion of Iraq. More precisely, about conditions soon after the invasion. And as General Sherman warned us, war is hell.

So I'm glad Myers doesn't try to glorify the conflict:

"You bombed my village," the old man, his head down, replied slowly in English. "First you shoot into my house, then you come to the door."

"Where you learn to speak English?" Jonesy asked.

"I drove a cab in London for twelve years," answered the old man. "When I had enough money to buy a house for my family, I came back to my country."

"You're going to be all right," Jonesy said. "We don't hurt our prisoners."

"My house had holes in the walls," the old man said. "I am away from my family. Is this all right?"

"Your ass could be dead," said Jonesy.

We drove the next miles in silence.

It was all pretty confusing. We had been attacked. The guys who had fired on us didn't know us, and we didn't know them. I thought of them getting up in the morning and having their breakfast. Perhaps they had talked about the war. Perhaps they had imagined themselves fighting heroically against us. Now they were dead and the meaning of it was somewhere in the thin smoke that rose over the buildings.

Here's another excerpt:

"Images flicked through my mind. Pendleton's body awkwardly twisted in death, the pictures of his girls still in his pocket against his cooling skin. The parts of the marine on the busy street. Muslim women in black, their hands over their mouths as if they were holding in the screams that would reveal their souls. The old grandmother wailing over the body of the boy.

The amazing thing was the randomness of the dying. If you were American, your picture might be in some daily newspaper... If you were Iraqi, there would be no mention of you dying unless you could be called an insurgent."

I want to mention the glossary at the end of the book. Some of the jargon, and initials (KIA, for example) may not be familar to you. Just check the glossary. It's very helpful.

Sunrise Over Fallujah is a good story. If you like it, I recommend some of Tim O'Brien's Vietnam novels: Going After Cacciato, which won the National Book Award; and The Things They Carried will get you started.


Helen's Book Blog said...

I really liked this novel (and most of Walter Dean Myers' other books as well). I recommend it to a lot of students who come back wanting more. Another book that is similar is Patricia McCormick's Purple Heart

gonovice said...

I have to agree - I've enjoyed every book by Myers that I've read. And thanks for the recommendation!

Meytal Radzinski said...

I suspect that most young men today would probably be more likely to read something contemporary before diving into Vietnam war stories. Iraq is growing to be a familiar story for American youth (as well as, obviously, youth in other countries involved in the invasion, all the way down to Iraq itself) - Vietnam seems a little far away for the average teen reader.

That aside, I have found most Walter Dean Myers books to be at worst reasonably good, and at best absolutely mind-blowing. I have not yet read "Sunrise Over Fallujah" so I can't say where it falls, but I should very much like to read it soon.

gonovice said...

Interesting... I like a good story, no matter what the time frame. Tim O'Brien won the National Book Award, and writes as well as, or better than Myers. I'll take his war stories over Hemingway's. So I just couldn't resist, I guess.