Monday, December 12, 2011

The Writing Reminds This Reader of the Desert

Here is a brief review that appeared two weeks ago on

Like the desert

Shade it Black, Death and After in Iraq by Jess Goodell with John Hearn; 2011; $24.95; 191 pages; Casemate Publishers, Havertown, PA; 978-1-61200-001-5; Checked out from Multnomah County Library, Central; 11/16-11/19
Why did I pick this up? My dad recommended it and I am always trying to understand what we are asking our soldiers to do and how it affects them.  I do not want to be one of the old men sending the young people off to war without knowing how it will affect them and us.  I am about to get up on my soapbox.  Why is it old people who send the young to war when they are the ones instigating things.  Why not have the leaders have a boxing match?  And while I am up here, why are the rich able to buy their childrens way out of conflict.  Now you got me started, but I am going to climb off the soap box and review the book.
What is the story? Jess Goodell is part of a platoon that is tasked with gathering, identifying and preparing the remains of Marines killed in Iraq.  She recounts her experiences as a Marine of a minority gender, as a member of a unit that is tasked with a gruesome mission.   She speaks of the mental trauma that she encountered through her tour in Iraq and how it has affected her life after the Corps.  She does so in an engaging yet very terse style.  She communicates well with a minimum of words.    One thing that really struck a chord was in her thinking of esprit de corp, that what is a cohesive unit when all it’s member share a goal, dissolves once the goal is no longer shared.  It is something that I think anyone who has been in the military or a member of a sports team has experienced.  I think that dissolution of the group would be hard to deal with due to the tightness encountered by those in traumatic situations such as combat.
Did I like it? Yes, I was moved by the authors ability to convey intense emotion with a brevity.  I was moved by her ability to share what she was going through and to convey that well enough that others could understand a small part of what she went through.
What is with the title of the review? Jess Goodell writes like the desert she writes of.  Stark and desolate but capable of eliciting strong emotion.

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