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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk: A Novel by Ben Fountain

 

A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at “the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal”–three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew–has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America’s most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide “Victory Tour” to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny’s Child.

Among the Bravos is the Silver Star-winning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys’ hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his family–his worried sisters and broken father–and Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy’s mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.

Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms–soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.

Poignant, riotously funny, and exquisitely heartbreaking, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” is a devastating portrait of our time, a searing and powerful novel that cements Ben Fountain’s reputation as one of the finest writers of his generation.

My Review

This features a young 19 year old Texan boy who went away and fought for his country. He is back over for a little halftime walk on a pitch. What really makes it that more heartfelt I feel is his chance to return alive to the normal daily run of things away from the blood and war and he discovers some possible love. The sad thing is he has to return to the killing fields. This is not a deeply meaningful story on war or written in the same class as slaughterhouse five but it’s an ambitious take on a topic that stirs so much fear and feelings of despair and loss, War.
When it comes to halftime goings on I still remember that Clint Eastwood advert.

Reviewed by Lou Pendergrast on 20 July 2012

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