Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Ghosts of War by Ryan Smithson (review)
Title: Ghosts of War
Author: Ryan Smithson
Genre: Young People / Biography
Dewey Decimal: YP 956.705 Smi
If you read only one book this year, make it this one.
Smithson's book appealed and appalled me on so many levels. I know the Iraq War and the politics of how and when we go to war and everything involved in between is a hot topic for many. So many are for the war or against the war, but many can agree on supporting our troops. But knowing this didn't prepare me for Smithson's tale of his year in Iraq.
I've had many relatives go through combat and the military. From World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq to combat, dead bodies, and POWs. The common theme is often hardship of some sort but very little verbalization on their time overseas. Smithson made it personal for me, made it tangible. He told his story and didn't try to hide things from the reader. While reading about scraping brain matter from a Humvee may make you queasy, it's something that didn't even make me blanch as I realized he did the scraping, not me.
At many times I was reminded of the insanity you see in M*A*S*H and the hardships you see on the nightly news. But again, Smithson makes it personal. He uses simple words to tell his story and leaves you feeling proud to be an American. He leaves you grateful for everything you have and grateful for those who have helped us keep it. He leaves you wondering what book could possibly compare to this masterpiece. He leaves you ashamed that there even needs to be war in the first place. He leaves you with a better understanding of what people go through when they deploy to the big sandbox.
To emphasize, if you read only one book this year, make it this one. This is an ideal book for high school students* as it speaks to them (Smithson was only 19 when he deployed). And speaking as an old-fart, this book is also ideal for anyone even remotely interested in what soldiers go through in Iraq.
* There are some graphic scenes, but no worse than what you'd see in an R rated action movie. There's also some language, but I'm sure most high schoolers these days know them all.