Combat memoirs don’t get any more personal, and Meyer deserves honors for his honesty here just as much as for his...

Scarifying memoir by Medal of Honor winner Meyer, proving that war is indeed hell—and the bureaucracy of war more hellish still.

This cathartic, heartfelt account is not really a work of literature. Few readers would put it in the same class as similar memoirs by, say, Caesar or Ulysses S. Grant or even Anthony Swofford, and even the participation of military journalist West (The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy, and the Way Out of Afghanistan, 2011, etc.) doesn’t keep the narrative from falling into pits of cliché and sentimentality. Earnest clumsiness aside, this is a book readers will want to study closely if they plan to go to war anytime soon, not least because of its helpful hints—e.g., in a firefight, watch your flank and pay attention to your officers, and you might just stay alive. A son of rural Kentucky and a highly trained sniper, Meyer gives a close reading of the tough and tenacious farming people he was put up against in Afghanistan: “It takes plain stubbornness to hack a living out of that flinty earth. If the villagers supported the insurgents, we were in for a long war.” The villagers indeed supported the insurgents—the Taliban and their allies—in the sliver of mountain-ringed valley, hard against the border of Pakistan, into which Meyer and his fellow Marines were inserted. There they fought what has come to be known as the Battle of Ganjigal, where Meyer earned his medal even in the face of inept decisions higher up. As he writes, an investigation of various intelligence and tactical failures found “some shortcomings and ‘poor battle management,’ ” which he likens to saying that Lincoln was shot because someone left a door at the Ford Theatre unlocked.

Combat memoirs don’t get any more personal, and Meyer deserves honors for his honesty here just as much as for his experiences in the field.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9340-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012


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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