War is hell, and hell is other people. In this serviceable account, Edmonds assures us that both adages are true.

Sometimes-harrowing memoir of time spent on the battleground in Iraq and its psychic consequences.

Most of the literature of the Iraq and Afghanistan misadventures has come from enlisted personnel, who bear the lion’s share of the fight. This memoir is unusual in that it comes from a high-ranking officer, just two grades down from general, deployed in the field in the dreadful year of 2005. It also comes from an officer who, since he was attached to an Iraqi unit as an adviser, did not have to observe all the niceties of war. Edmonds participated in numerous interrogation sessions, and the longer he did so, he writes, “the less certain and more conflicted I became about the right and wrong of everything.” The lessons he learned—some of which he imparts here—about how to grill a prisoner effectively are downright chilling. He recounts, for example, an Iraqi officer, late of Saddam Hussein’s army, telling him that the key is to be alternately frightening and friendly: “Going from comfort to terror to comfort, then terror, over and over again; soon even the strongest will give in.” Adding to his alienation was a girlfriend back home who wasn’t providing all the moral support she might. Adrift without an anchor and increasingly unsold on the mission—as he writes, “I hate it when Iraqis ask me to account for the shit that other Americans do”—Edmonds sank into the depression and emotional maelstrom of PTSD. Though he survived combat, the author leaves readers with the certainty that he will never again be who he once was. The narrative is a blend of rhetorical questions, staccato dialogue, and plaintive observations. Edmonds doesn’t reach the depth attained in recent books by Ben Fountain, Phil Klay, or Michael Pitre, but he does provide a useful adjunct to the work on PTSD done by Jonathan Shay and other writers and analysts.

War is hell, and hell is other people. In this serviceable account, Edmonds assures us that both adages are true.

Pub Date: May 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60598-774-3

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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