redeploymentRedeployment by Phil Klay is a collection of short stories that reveals the experiences of American soldiers who fought in the long Iraq conflict which started in 2003 and ended in 2011.  The stories reveal all aspects of military service from the boots on the ground action to coming home and everything in between.  Klay served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the surge in the Iraq conflict and it is perhaps that experience that helps these stories ring true.  On the other hand, as a Dartmouth grad and an MFA recipient from Hunter College, he proves time and time again in the work that he is a skilled and confident writer of human sorrow.

If you are considering having a discussion using this book, you will need to be aware that the tone of these stories is bleak.  While individual people may on occasion shine, most of the individuals in the stories are damaged by the war in some fashion.

While all the stories are worthy, some of them are outstanding.  If I was to suggest certain tales to a group that wanted to read less than the whole book, I certainly could.  Bodies is the tale of a soldier assigned to the remains unit.  Money as a Weapon System is a searing tale of how the war is politically handled.  Readers get the perspective of a chaplain in Prayer in the Furnace.  Perhaps the most powerful of all is War Stories, a tale of trying to be normal when physically and mentally damaged by the conflict.

It will take some courage to hold this book discussion.  Leaders are going to need to keep the focus on the individual stories because I could see how a group could slide into person issues and debates.  But have the courage to look at this work for a discussion–the individuals who these characters represent deserve your attention.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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