“One of the best debuts of the year.” —Portland Oregonian
Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction · Winner of the John Leonard First Book Prize · Selected as one of the best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review, Time, Newsweek, The Washington Post Book World, Amazon, and more
Phil Klay's Redeployment takes readers to the frontlines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there, and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.
In "Redeployment", a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people "who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died." In "After Action Report", a Lance Corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn't commit, in order that his best friend will be unburdened. A Morturary Affairs Marine tells about his experiences collecting remains—of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both. A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious Colonel. And in the darkly comic "Money as a Weapons System", a young Foreign Service Officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball. These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship and violence that make up a soldier's daily life at war, and the isolation, remorse, and despair that can accompany a soldier's homecoming.
Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing. Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss. Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation.
Klay's title story, a moving homage to soldiers of war who must return home to attempt a normal life, made a splash when it was first published in Granta. This debut collection of a dozen stories resonates with themes of battle and images of residual battlefield pain and psychological trauma. This is especially evident in heart-wrenching stories like "Bodies," in which a soldier buffers his grisly war stories in order not to have to truly share the horror of his tour in Iraq. Alternately, some stories are lighter and offer glimmers of humanity against Klay's bleak landscape of combat, as in "Money as a Weapons System," which finds a Foreign Service Officer charged with improving the civil affairs of Iraqi citizens by offering them baseball lessons. Klay grasps both tough-guy characterization and life spent in the field, yet he also mines the struggle of soldiers to be emotionally freed from the images they can't stop seeing. Written in clipped sentences capturing the brutality of conflict, the specter of death permeates each story, from the corpse-eating dogs in the title story to Sergeant Deetz in "Ten Kliks South," who snickers at his troop's body count of insurgents. It's clear that Klay, himself a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq, has parlayed his insider's knowledge of soldier-bonding and emotional scarring into a collection that proves a powerful statement on the nature of war, violence, and the nuances of human nature.