I have not had the opportunity to crack a book that has not been related directly to class since August. For two and a half months, every page has been assigned reading. The Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival pushed me to read outside of class, so I picked up “Redeployment” by Phil Klay.
“Redeployment” consists of several short stories, each of which gives the reader, specifically the American civilian, an insight into the world and mind of the soldier. The stories in “Redeployment” are tales of the Iraq War.
I must warn you, this is not a book that is going to make you feel good. It is a book with intense language that is going to push your boundaries. It is a book that makes you question everything you thought you knew about the military and war. It is a book that will make you think about the requests we, as a country, put on the shoulders of the men and women in our armed forces.
With that being said, Klay delivers 12 stories similar in nature that delve into different aspects of the soldier experience. Rather than going through each of the stories, I am going to address a few that stood out the most to me.
The first short story in the book has the same name of “Redeployment.” It is the one that more people are familiar with. This story is most relatable. “Redeployment” is about an infantry soldier who comes back from the Iraq War to his wife and does not easily adjust back to home life. This story’s position as the first story in the book gave me a sense that I could handle whatever was next.
As the book continues, the stories drift away from what I thought I knew and what I was comfortable with.
In another story titled “After Action Report,” a young Iraqi boy takes his father’s gun and shoots at American soldiers. Not knowing the shooter was a child, one soldier did what he was trained to do by eliminating the threat. After taking the life of the boy in front of his mother, the soldier is deeply affected by his actions. This story showed me a more emotional side of the soldier. It gave me some insight on how the act of killing, particularly the killing of a child, weighed on the soldier, even in the midst of combat.
One of the most shocking stories to me is “In Vietnam They Had Whores,” which was one of the excerpts that Klay read at this year’s Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival. This story caught my attention because it was one of the few times that Klay explicitly mentions Vietnam. However, looking closely some of what is mentioned throughout the short stories, I saw Vietnam as a recurring element. In addition, this story broached a subject that not many people want to discuss when it comes to American soldiers. The story begins with a father telling his son, who is about to be deployed to Iraq, how there were whores in Vietnam and how the soldiers would play sexual games with the women in the bars. The story skipped to the son, who is now in Iraq. While in Iraq, the son and his fellow soldiers obsess over women and use masturbation (and other “toys”) to alleviate the frustration they feel. The story draws to a close with the son and one of his buddies from the war going to a strip club where sometimes the girls will “do a little more.” This story, which does not tell the most comfortable table talk, shows the reader a side of the soldier that is not overtly seen and talked about. It shows an aggression and frustration that people do not typically consider. This story also shows that there is no place that Klay is willing to go.
“Redeployment” is not a book you should pick up to read if you just want a fun read that you will not think about after you finish. This book takes you to a place you have never been before and makes you think long after you have put it down.