The personal stories of U.S. soldiers caught in a deadly 2004 ambush in Sadr City that the author believes marked a turning point, when the war’s mission shifted from peacekeeping and nation-building to battling an insurgency.
ABC News Chief White House correspondent Raddatz, who has reported frequently from Iraq, displays a compassionate heart in her first book, which is also notable for its cinematic narrative structure. Chapters are short and focused. The author whisks us rapidly from Iraq to Texas to Alabama and frequently shifts her lens from the killing zone to the home front and back. Raddatz is comfortable writing about high-tech weapons and the intricacies of urban warfare. She doesn’t shy away from gore, either: After a battle, soldiers clean from vehicles the remains of their comrades’ brains, “soft and slippery and horrifying.” She was able to coax intimate revelations from combatants, their officers, their families; she makes use of this material in italicized passages that voice the players’ thoughts. Raddatz’s principal interest is in the human beings caught up in the war. She tells their backstories, describes their experiences in high school, their marriages, their parents. She shows us what the wives were doing back at Fort Hood, reveals how some of them received the awful news that a husband had fallen. Her message appears to be that we are asking some sweet young people to do some awful things. Two-thirds of the way through, a surprise—the story of the death of Casey Sheehan, son of antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan.
A horrifying story, clearly told, though some readers may regret that the author stays so far in the background that she is nearly invisible.