World War I may have been regarded as the “war to end all wars,” but we here in the twenty-first century know better, much to our dismay.
In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson charged Americans with remembering “those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory.” We have more wars and veterans to remember now. More than we ought. The following authors offer these novels, short stories, and memoirs as small tokens of remembrance and thanks for sacrifices made and freedom secured.
Matthew Eck served in Somalia and Haiti before earning writing degrees and turning his own experiences into The Farther Shore. Separated from their command in a desert country involved in a nameless war, Josh and his small band of brothers try desperately to survive. As they work their way out of a war-torn city, the soldiers encounter one surreal situation after another, getting help from the most unlikely people, and thwarted by their own comrades. Marked with elegant writing, breath-holding suspense, and the painful truths about young men during wartime, this short, sharp novel is the first from Eck, a Kansas City native.
No one would have picked Johnny Rico for a soldier, least of all Johnny. Rico joined the Army right after 9/11 and his unit was assigned to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. Except they fought boredom and ludicrous orders from superiors most of the time. Blood Makes the Grass Grow Green is an uncensored look at what the boys in green are doing when they’re not shooting at the enemy, whoever that is, the boys aren’t sure themselves. It’s a bawdy, poignant, outrageous, and repulsive story of life in a combat zone.
Fobbit is a fictional account set during the Iraq War and is as close to a military comedy of terrors as a reader will get. A ‘fobbit’ is an Army employee stationed at a Forward Operating Base who work in clean, protected cubicles and shower every day. To quote Abrams, Fobbits are “in the war, not of the war.” Chance Gooding, Jr. is the public relations officer charged with turning Significant Actions (military actions resulting in deaths of soldiers) into palatable press releases for CNN and The New York Times. However, by the time Gooding get a press release approved, it’s old news. Fobbit is getting critical comparison to Catch-22. It’s a lightning-paced, contemporary war story.
The wars overseas are fought on the homefront, too. In Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, a Thanksgiving Day football game halftime salute to returned soldiers has Billy Lynn reluctantly reliving the firefight that took the life of a close friend. He also realizes that life after wartime isn’t going to be any easier than life overseas and in some cases, more frightening.
An army of women fight a different war on the homefront—one of loneliness, stress, and the eerie quiet and solitude of the Army base. You Know When the Men Are Gone is a collection of short stories set on Fort Hood. The wives cope with the children and insecurities left behind. One wife leads a mysteriously glamorous late-night life while another is the unknowing subject of a secret surveillance mission. These modern-day Penelopes cope in their own ways while they wait, and hope, patiently for their soldiers to return.
About the Author
Kaite Mediatore Stover is the Readers Services Manager at the Kansas City Public Library. She is a regular guest on KCUR's Book Doctors segment and moderator of The Kansas City Star’s FYI Book Club. She can tap dance, read tarot cards, and doesn’t bite.