Joyce Carol Oates said, “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”
Despite how difficult that may be, I think it’s important to step outside our personal boundaries every once and a while by consuming a story about a subject, culture, or point of view we are not familiar or comfortable with. My most recent read, Redeployment by Phil Klay, provoked a visceral reaction that left me feeling burdened by the ugliness of war, but also lightened by the camaraderie found during desolate times.
Although the book is classified as fiction, Klay is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, having served in Iraq from January 2007 to February 2008, which lends an authenticity to the narratives in the collection.
In Redeployment, the reader is given wartime experiences from a soldier grappling with his homecoming; a Lance Corporal who agrees to take the credit for an enemy killing he did not commit; A Mortuary Affairs Marine responsible for collecting casualties; A chaplain; and a young Foreign Service Officer tasked with teaching Iraqis the game of baseball.
The remarkable thing about Redeployment is the brilliant contrasts in theme found within each piece which echo throughout collection—the fear in heroism; the guilt that plagues glory; and the inevitable isolation after homecoming.
While the book has graphic scenes and intense language, it shares the unspeakable with the reader—the civilian—and challenged me to see the men and women who serve our country with a newfound respect and appreciation.
Check out Reployment and other boundary-pushing books at the Sioux City Public Library.