Spoils

This highly charged debut transports readers to Fallujah during the Iraq War, where, with scalpel-like precision and extraordinary empathy for his characters, Van Reet casts an unflinching eye on the theater of war and on the blurred lines between good and bad, soldier and civilian, and victor and vanquished.

Spoils depicts a few short weeks in the lives of three people involved in the war in drastically different ways. Cassandra, an American soldier, is captured from her artillery unit during a firefight and forced to endure a brutal captivity as a POW. Abu Al-Hool is a fierce mujahedeen, a veteran of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Chechnya, whose power is being eroded by the next wave of super-radicalized jihadists (those brutal enough to behead their prisoners…and circulate the video to the world). Finally, there is Sleed, a young soldier haunted by the knowledge that he was searching one of Sadaam’s palaces for a gold-toilet-seat souvenir as his fellow soldiers were ambushed.

In dazzling prose, Van Reet maps the vivid interior lives and traces the motivations and desires of these combatants on both sides of a war that is spinning increasingly out of control. The result is an unsparing and unforgettable novel that belongs alongside modern war classics such as The Yellow Birds, Redeployment, and The Things They Carried.

The Second Mrs. Hockaday

second-mrs-hBy Susan Rivers

When Major Gryffth Hockaday is called to the front lines of the Civil War, his new bride is left to care for her husband’s three-hundred-acre farm and infant son. Placidia, a mere teenager herself living far from her family and completely unprepared to run a farm or raise a child, must endure the darkest days of the war on her own. By the time Major Hockaday returns two years later, Placidia is bound for jail, accused of having borne a child in his absence and murdering it. What really transpired in the two years he was away? To what extremes can war and violence push a woman who is left to fend for herself?

Told through letters, court inquests, and journal entries, this saga, inspired by a true incident, unfolds with gripping intensity, conjuring the era with uncanny immediacy. Amid the desperation of wartime, Placidia sees the social order of her Southern homeland unravel. As she comes to understand how her own history is linked to one runaway slave, her perspective on race and family are upended. A love story, a story of racial divide, and a story of the South as it fell in the war,The Second Mrs. Hockaday reveals how this generation—and the next—began to see their world anew.

This is one of those books that progresses so seamlessly that you marvel at the authenticity of it. In fact, Susan Rivers has said that the novel was inspired by her discovery of a mysterious crime in South Carolina during the Civil War, and she wrote her novel to make sense of it; once she started writing, the story poured out through these myriad voices. But because Rivers is also a meticulous researcher, every part of the story has some basis in fact. As in Hillary Jordan’sMudbound, you will feel that you’re in the hands of a natural storyteller who knows how to breathe life into this period of history, the young Placidia, and all of the people around her. This is a remarkable, moving, and unforgettable debut.

A Soldier’s Sketchbook

By Joseph FarrisA Soldier's Sketchbook cover

An illustrated memoir from a World War II soldier is drawn from the letters, sketches, snapshots, and mementos of Pvt. Farris, who left his home of Danbury, Connecticut, and set off to war aboard the U.S.S. “General Gordon” in October 1944, bound for France as part of Company M, 398th Infantry.

 

 

This watercolor shows one of the most dangerous moments in our battle for the Maginot Line. The Germans had bracketed our position, and we anxiously feared the next shell would zero in on us. p. 120

This is an illustration by Joseph Farris from his powerful memoir A Soldier’s Sketchbook.

PERMITTED USE: This image may be downloaded or is otherwise provided at no charge for one-time use for coverage or promotion of the “A SOLDIER’S SKETCHBOOK” dated 2011 and exclusively in conjunction thereof. No copying, distribution or archiving permitted. Sublicensing, sale or resale is prohibited.

REQUIRED CREDIT AND CAPTION: All image uses must bear the copyright notice and be properly credited to the relevant photographer, as shown in this metadata, and must be accompanied by a caption which makes reference to the “A SOLDIER’S SKETCHBOOK.” Any uses in which the image appears without proper copyright notice, photographer credit and a caption referencing the “A SOLDIER’S SKETCHBOOK” are subject to paid licensing.

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynns Long Halftime WalkBy Ben Fountain

A finalist for the National Book Award!

A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at “the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal” – three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew – has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America’s most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny’s Child.

Among the Bravos is the Silver Star-winning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys’ hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his family – his worried sisters and broken father – and Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy’s mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.

Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms – soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.

Poignant, riotously funny, and exquisitely heartbreaking, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is a devastating portrait of our time, a searing and powerful novel that cements Ben Fountain’s reputation as one of the finest writers of his generation.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is currently a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction.

Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays From the Classics to Pop Culture by Daniel Mendelsohn

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