This book just about broke my heart. And I knew it would. I should’ve done what I did with Titanic…I refused to ever watch that movie. People kept asking me why, and I would say I know how it ends: the boat sinks and people die, and I don’t really need to watch that happen.
And while no boats sink in this book, people still die. Namely, Pat Tillman, the American pro football player who, following 9-11, gave up his football career to join the Rangers. Only to then die in Afghanistan. By friendly fire (that part I had actually forgotten about).
But. It’s Krakauer! And I love all things Krakauer, and the book has been on the shelves for a few years (I bought it after reading and loving Into Thin Air and Under the Banner of Heaven). So I put on my big-girl panties and read. And read and read and read. And cried. And then it was over and I was glad I’d read it, but sad, and I really wanted a happy book to read, but I looked at my shelves and realized that there are very few happy books on them. (What’s up with that?!?)
This book is a fascinating look at a guy who enlisted because he felt he had a moral obligation to do so. Yet, he also disagreed with the US interference in Iraq, had a tough time accepting a lot of what actually happened in the Army, and really struggled with being overseas, away from his wife, family, and friends. Tillman kept a journal for the last few years of his life, and there are excerpts throughout the book. His wife also talked to the author in-depth about Tillman’s character and his life. And while he was far from perfect, he was a man who felt very deeply, and thought at great length about the world and his place in it. It was fascinating to read about that dichotomy between what he felt he had to do, and how he felt about the government and the military. However, it was less than fascinating to read about the “battle” in which he was killed. Military strategy and troop movement bore me to no end (I had to take a class in college that dealt with military history, and trust me when I say WORST. CLASS. EVER.), and there was a fairly long piece towards the end of the book that was heavy on guns and jeeps and troop movement and bullets and general military shit. Followed by a very graphic description of how Tillman was killed. And then an in-depth look at the outrageous way his death was originally blamed on enemy fire, and the Tillman family’s search for the truth.
Despite the tragic end (and the boring military bits), the book is worth reading (so, so, so worth reading). Just keep a tissue handy.