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Review of Alice Bliss

May 28, 2011

Celebrate Memorial Day by Reading a Book

Lately, it seems I’ve been reading and reviewing a lot of books about war. This is strange since most of us go about our business each day without giving war much thought despite the fact that there are thousands of U.S. soldiers currently deployed around the world.  I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t know anyone personally who is serving.  I know a friend of a friend and I know lots of people who served at some time in the past but there is no one that I worry about each night as I’m falling asleep.  This is largely due to the fact that there is no draft and so war is no longer an equal opportunity responsibility as it was in the past.  As a result, only certain segments of the population join up and carry the the burden of protecting U.S. soil and citizens.  While I’m not pro-war, I do feel that all American citizens should be involved in some way, shape, or form in serving the greater good of their country.

 
With that thought in mind, I’d like to ask everyone to read at least one of the books about war that came out in the past year.  I know, reading about war can be  uncomfortable and difficult, to say the least, but the following authors do such a phenomenal job with the subject that I suspect you will feel as lucky as I did when you finish them.  All of the books have narratives that make them relevant no matter what your situation or your stand on war.  There are coming-of-age stories, novels about troubled marriages, best buddy tales and those of bravery and courage.

 
My latest war read is Laura Harringon’s debut novel Alice Bliss.  It’s about a young girl coming of age when her father is deployed to Iraq.  Fifteen-year-old Alice learns to fend for herself, watch out for her little sister and fill in for her emotionally wrought mother.  Along the way, she plants the family garden which was once her father’s hobby; she learns how to drive so that she is able to take care of family emergencies; and she falls in love for the first time.  Currently there are more than 300,000 teens in the U.S. with family members who are deployed.  That means Alice Bliss is the story of thousands of young girls whose mothers or fathers serve in the military at this moment.  I highly recommend this book to teen girls who are facing life each uncertain day with a parent in harm’s way.  Harrington has written a poignant and uplifting story about the family who is left behind.

Siobhan Fallon’s phenomenal book You Know When the Men Are Gone is a collection of eight short stories.  She writes about the families of those who serve:  the wives of the men who deploy, the husbands who serve and the children caught in the crossfire. Fallon does a great job of giving us a peek into the small details of everyday life of the military family. (See March review.)

Karl Marlantes wrote the award-winning Matterhorn which gives us the dark, gritty adventure that is war.  The reader can feel the terror of combat and the horror of the battlefield.  Marlantes did a masterful job on this Vietnam epic.

Ken Babbs gave us Who Shot the Water Buffalo? and he does a fantastic job of pulling back the curtain on the absurdities of war.  It’s a rollicking ride through the jungles of Vietnam that will leave you crying and laughing all at the same time.  (See May review.)

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