A few months ago I got a friend request on Goodreads from somebody I didn't know and as always, I checked out the profile. I always like new friends on Goodreads if they're likely to recommend good books, since I'm always looking for something new to put on my Kindle. I noticed this person was an author, and clicked on his book. I was intrigued immediately upon discovering it was a war memoir, and added it to my to-read shelf and downloaded it onto my Kindle.
I've read a lot of military memoirs over the last decade, and quite a few about Iraq and Afghanistan. It's one of my favorite book genres. This could sound rather odd considering my husband is a U.S. soldier, but I'm one of the (probably minority) military wives who would rather know what happens over there than not. You can't really prepare for something you know nothing about. With that said, I was kind of avoiding starting this one. For one thing, my husband is heading over there in the not-too-far future and I've been struggling enough with the thought without adding anything else to it. But I finally started it last week, figuring it would be easier to read it while he was still here than wait til he's gone.
Another reason for my avoidance was that after having exchanged a few messages with Bryan on Goodreads about the book (when he found out Andrew will be deploying again he definitely suggested it would be good for me to read it), I felt a little nervous. I knew he would be expecting a review, and what if it sucked?? LOL But I needn't have worried: I was sucked in from the very first page. Bryan is an excellent writer. I don't remember any other war memoir that made me feel like I was right there like this one did. His descriptions paint every scene in vivid detail; it was like watching a movie. Some memoir authors get so militarily technical or so "down and dirty" that you become detached from the story, but not this one. It's simple, blunt, and real.
Even though I couldn't put it down, it was certainly not easy reading. My heart hurt over the descriptions of the plight of the Afghan people, especially the children. Americans have NO idea how good we have it. I got very angry over the way his wife treated him (though I definitely appreciated the fact that he kept her out of the story as much as possible); when my husband was deployed a few years ago, anything he even hinted at wanting got put in the mail to him the very next day, and it's hard for me to imagine a military wife who refused to do the same. The only thing that kept me from completely breaking down over some parts was my mistake to take my Kindle with me to public places and not wanting anyone to see me sitting there bawling my eyes out!
Bryan's experiences upon returning from Afghanistan would be important for anyone to read who has a servicemember in their life, no matter in what capacity. I appreciated his honesty about his struggles and also his humility. He doesn't write with a victim mentality; he just tells it like it was. I think every veteran's journey back to wholeness is going to be different, but without doubt most of them struggle with similar things, and I feel like I will be a better support to my soldier after having read Bryan's story. So, many thanks to him for putting himself out there!