On Memorial Day

I wasn’t prepared to like Redeployment by Phil Klay as much as I did. The first story, from which the collection title is taken, is about a Marine returning home to a world that no longer makes sense and finding that his dog is critically ill. When it’s time to put the dog down, he does so with the efficiency he learned in the Marine Corps, knowing exactly what the first, second, and third shots will achieve. While it is such a well-crafted story, it was so heart-wrenching that I wondered if I’d be up for the rest of the book. In the end, it was Klay’s perfect crafting of the short story form that kept me reading, along with his honest and very moving portrayal of how living in the intense state of war affects individuals. He takes the point of view of a variety of different characters–an angry Iraq vet who goes to college with a huge chip on his shoulder and falls for a Muslim woman, a mortuary duty soldier who entertains barflies with stories of the bodies he collected, a chaplain who deals with his ineffectiveness, a Marine who takes credit for a kill his roommate can’t, and a darkly comic story of bureaucracy and misguided good intentions and baseball in Iraq, among others. A National Award winner, Redeployment stands with war classics like Tim O’Brien’s  The Things They Carried and Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun.

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