This book is a soldier’s-eye view of the 2007 troop surge in Iraq. Finkel tells the story of what it was like for one infantry unit from the time of their deployment until their return home (the ones who weren’t killed or seriously injured) a year later. Finkel’s focus in on what the soldiers were experiencing, and for the most part he avoids editorializing about the politics surrounding the war except to show how disconnected they are from the day-to-day experiences of the people on the ground.
Finkel doesn’t spare any of the details. He follows the soldiers through all the aspects of their service, including repeated deployments where Humvees and the people in them are ripped apart by explosives, and he tells the stories of soldiers (and their families) coping with their experiences during and after deployment, at the forward bases, at home, and in hospitals. Finkel uses the occasional literary flourish to heighten the emotional impact of the facts he is imparting, but for the most part he admirably lets the soldiers’ experiences speak for themselves.