Sunday, July 30, 2017

Brave Deeds by David Abrams

When our son threw over his obsession with dinosaurs for WWII and later 20th c wars I found myself entering new territory.

For someone who couldn't stand to watch violence, whose high school classes didn't even get to WWI, I found myself watching war movies and reading a lot of war books. At first, our son liked The Longest Day and To Hell and Back. As he grew so did his sophistication. In his mid-teens, he read the book and watched the movie Black Hawk Down over and over. Which meant so did I.

My son's interests expanded my understanding of the world and politics--and human nature.

"Tell brave deeds of war." 
Then they recounted tales,--
"There were stern stands
And bitter runs for glory."

Ah, I think there were braver deeds.
Stephen Crane, The Black Riders and Other Lines

The title of David Abrams' new book Brave Deeds comes from a poem by Stephen Crane. What are these deeds that are braver than the 'bitter runs for glory'?

Told they could not attend the memorial service for their leader Staff Sergeant Morgan, six soldiers in Iraq decide to go AWOL. They had the mission all planned out: 'Borrow' a HUMMER, drive to the base where the service was being held, and return to face the consequences.

If something can go wrong it will. They did not count on the HUMMER breaking down in one of the most dangerous sectors of Bagdad. Or a grueling hike through hostile territory without even a map that in their panic they forgot to bring.

The trek takes eight hours, encountering people who sidetrack them into conflicts. But they stick to their mission, determined to pay honor to their fallen leader, "one team, one fight, one brotherhood," hopefully alive and intact at the end.

This journey tale brings the men into danger, but we also learn that their inner life journey is just as tortured. Each soldier's inner dialogue is heard in alternating chapters, without identification. Readers learn the men's fears and insecurities and pain, how they see each other, what has motivated them to go on this arduous, dangerous journey, and what Sgt. Morgan meant to them.

One soldier admits they are not 'great men risking death on a brave mission'. No, we are 'Fucked up and flawed' he thinks.

Morgan seen through the eyes of his men is a vivid character. Some saw his death as heroic, those who believed in "the First Church of Bush". Others were there for the paycheck, his death just sad and senseless. His death affected each one, and they now they risk their lives to honor him.

Reading the novel I was sometimes disturbed, sometimes I laughed. I felt compassion and revulsion, concern and sorrow. At the end I was moved.

The novel was inspired by a true story, as Abrams discusses here.

I received a free book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Brave Deeds
David Abrams
Grove Press, Black Cat
Publication August 1, 2017
Paperback $16.00
ISBN: 9780802126863