In this debut novel, a young heroine on an American Air Force base in Afghanistan confronts a minefield of interpersonal relationships.
Molly McKinney, a Chicago girl barely out of her teens, is an aspiring doctor who joined the Army Reserve mainly to pay for medical school. But in 2003, she’s on duty in Bagram, Afghanistan, as a military police specialist, overseeing numbered and nicknamed Afghan PUCs (a military acronym for “persons under confinement”). These are prisoners and insurgents, assumed to have Taliban connections, some awaiting transit to Guantanamo Bay; they often fall on the thin line between ridiculous and scary. Although a Taliban rocket attack occurs early on, it turns out to be a routine, monthly affair with poor accuracy and no lasting repercussions. The real drama is the tangle of relationships among the young co-ed military in the arid, stifling atmosphere of the base. Virginal Molly is drawn to a lothario who turns out to already have a wife and child back home. Another comrade gets pregnant by a fellow soldier. Molly later begins a flirtatious relationship with Adam Beck, a somewhat overbearing sergeant who’s already seeing another girl but seems to save his more emotional, personal side for Molly. There’s a war going on as well, and Molly must deal with sleep deprivation, camel spiders, and new batches of PUCs; she also receives long-awaited R & R in cosmopolitan Qatar. Wynne’s debut is partially based on her own experiences as a U.S. Army reservist who served in the war in Afghanistan. But readers looking for a bitter, Bush-bashing exposé with improvised vehicle armor, Halliburton allegations, or Abu Ghraib–style prisoner abuse (or, conversely, Rambo-style combat firefights and patriotic triumphs) should deploy elsewhere; Wynne has no obvious agenda, other than to deliver a confidently told, modern coming-of-age story of college-age Americans far from home who make sometimes-disastrous choices—and a few good ones.
A knowing service-drama/romance that’s neither an armed forces recruiting tool nor a trendy political broadside.