Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.
The dilemmas of war
By Dan Dervin
For The Free Lance-Star
THIS worthy novel is being promoted as the account of the Afghan war. Since I was blown away in the reading, I can’t object. It is an engaging work of timeless imagination, both vivid and gritty.
Players are brilliantly rendered in their idiosyncrasies while also projecting the key attitudes, pitfalls, ideals and tragic dilemmas that constitute this fractious war.
The locale is a U.S. military outpost in the dust-driven plains. The garrison has been nearly overrun by a Taliban night attack. The wounded are recovered, the few deaths tallied, the enemy corpses are left in no-man’s-land. All but one, and this young fighter is selected by the top brass as a trophy to return to HQ and be displayed for propaganda.
The next morning, there appears outside the defenses a figure awaking and emerging from a cart. Looks to be a woman. A suicide bomber? A decoy for another Taliban attack? An interpreter with a megaphone begins conversing with her. She insists she has come to claim her brother’s body for proper burial, the same one chosen for public display.
The captain is going by the book, the young lieutenant is torn; the seasoned sergeant sympathizes. The men are spooked. What are the protocols for an enigma?
Do law and military force trump the piety of blood ties? These are the quandaries faced by those caught in this supposedly soon-to-end war, but never-ending conflict.
Dan Dervin is a freelance writer in Fredericksburg.
By Joydeep Roy–Bhattacharya
(Crown, $25, 304 pp.)
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