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WAR FLOWER by Brooke King Kirkus Star


My Life after Iraq

by Brooke King

Pub Date: March 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-64012-118-8
Publisher: Potomac Books

A devastating memoir of a woman’s experiences in Iraq that ultimately reflects how “there is no real end to war, only the absence of it, a lull in the fighting, a time during which another generation is born for the kill.”

At the age of 19, King (It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution in Afghanistan, 2017, etc.) was deployed to Iraq as a “wheel-vehicle mechanic,” which required her to recover vehicles rendered inoperable due to mechanical issues often caused by enemy fire. However, sometimes she also had to salvage the body parts of fellow soldiers who had been killed in those vehicles. “We were told every soldier gets a black bag and every piece of flesh, bone, or body part not connected to a full body was to have its own separate bag,” she writes. As a sergeant explained, “there is no certainty that the leg lying near one body is actually that body’s leg. It’s not your job to figure that shit out. It’s your job to clean it up.” Throughout her deployment she saw soldiers inured to the violence and death, and she tried to be detached and courageous even when she was thrown for a loop by mortar fire that left a fragment of shrapnel in her shin. Impressively, King coolly relates the countless horrors she witnessed. Readers who don’t know certain elements of war jargon—Strykers, nametape defilade, BOHICA, etc.—should consult a dictionary or the internet; this immediate narrative has little room for such explanations. As if her nightmarish experiences in the war weren’t difficult enough, she relates the equally arduous challenge of returning home pregnant with twins and suffering from and denying PTSD. Throughout, King’s descriptions are graphic, clear, and frightening to read.

An absolutely compelling war memoir marked by the author’s incredible strength of character and vulnerability.