Oh. This book. I listened to the entire eleven hours on audio over the course of just a few days. It was wonderfully performed by Oliver Wyman. Billy Lynn tells the story of a group of soldiers involved in a harrowing, deadly attack in Iraq that happened to be captured on camera by a Fox News crew. Footage from the attack was widely shown on television and the (surviving) members of the Bravo squad are sent home on a whirlwind “victory” tour. Focusing on one dizzying stop on their tour, most of the book takes place during a Dallas Cowboys game in which the squad is awkwardly placed at the center of a firework-laden halftime show starring Beyonce.
Author Ben Fountain really drives home his painfully accurate but satirical perspective on America during the mid 2000s, when Bush was still in the White House. Readers observe the absurdity of the soldiers’ experience through the somewhat innocent view of 19 year old Billy, who held his friend’s head in his lap as he died during the attack. Billy is in a state of flux. Traumatized by the attack and nauseated by the bland, disconnected bullshit of clueless Americans congratulating him on his “sacrifice, bravery, courage,” etc., Billy struggles with the knowledge that, following the tour, they will be sent right back to Iraq.
The most powerful part of this story is Billy’s interaction with his sister, who blames herself for Billy’s presence in Iraq. After a car accident left her face somewhat disfigured, her fiancee broke off their engagement. Protective younger brother Billy attacked the fiancee’s car and, in lieu of jail time, was encouraged to enlist. Billy and his sister’s relationship is so sweet, so dead on accurate, it will absolutely break your heart.
In November, it will be released as a major motion picture directed by Ang Lee. Check out the trailer here.
PRESCRIPTION: The perfect read for anyone who still thinks it was a good idea to invade Iraq and Afghanistan (do those people exist?). This is a great book to illustrate the futility of war, the irreparable damage it does to those who fight it, and the hypocrisy of rich white men riding high on a false sense of the “glory of war.” You may also want to send it (anonymously) to any Trump supporters in your life.