Flashes of War by Katey Schultz

Title: Flashes of War
Author: Katey Schultz

Genre: Fiction (Contemporary / Soldiers / War / Iraq / Afghanistan / Short Stories / PTSD / Military Families / Non-Combatants)
Publisher/Publication Date: Loyola University's Apprentice House (5/2013)
Source: MindBuck Media

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, in a single morning.
One-sentence summary: Thirty-one short stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the soldiers, the survivors, and the citizens in Iraq and Afghanistan responding to the violence.

Do I like the cover?: I do -- it's simple and sparse. As many of the stories have the POV of someone young, the use of the toy soldier is smart, I think.

I'm reminded of...: Tara L. Masih

First line: Now there's waiting to get deployed and there's waiting to get shot at., from 'The Waiting: Part I'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy, especially if you're interested in stories about the military and those impacted by war.

Why did I get this book?: Curiosity.

Review: This slender collection of short stories and 'flash' fiction packs a punch; I sat down on a Sunday morning with a little bit of dread, I admit, nervous about how grim the stories would be and how the author -- who has no military experience -- would handle the topic. Despite my wildly liberal political leanings, I'm from a military family and the US military is a complicated animal for me. I wasn't interested in a wholly patriotic wash nor aggressive criticisms. I was surprised to find I'd finished this book just as my wife came in for her first cup of coffee -- and that I really liked it. (My experience isn't dissimilar to that of Vestal Review, and we both had the same thoughts upon finishing.)

Comprised of thirty-one short stories and flash fiction (shorts in 150 words), the stories share the points of view of active duty US soldiers, families in Iraq and Afghanistan affected by the conflict, military spouses and loved ones, the damaged and the healing.

While the opening piece felt a little too clever for me -- a soldier in Afghanistan is bitter about Americans watching Hollywood action flicks at the mall -- the rest of the collection wasn't self-conscious or smugly ironic. Sad, a little crude, bittersweet, frightening, and at moments, even happy, these stories run a range of emotions rather beautifully.

Schultz's writing is clear and to the point, no wasted words or flighty, aloof sentiments. While Schultz isn't graphic in articulating the violence these soldiers and survivors see, it's apparent, tempered with resilience and the grim determination to survive.

Some of my favorite pieces include 'The Quiet Kind', about a husband and father's 'quiet' PTSD and the frigid barriers between him and those at home; 'Deuce Out', in which the younger teenaged sister of a man serving in Afghanistan decides to emulate her beloved older brother; 'KIA', the sparse and heartbreaking outline of a man killed in action; 'Checkpoint', about the devastating impact of misunderstanding cultural gestures; and 'Aaseya & Rahim', about an Afghan couple in an arranged marriage who find themselves in love with each other as they both work hard to survive.

A surprising but satisfying collection, those who are interested in stories of the military and those impacted by war will likely enjoy these pieces. Schultz is another writer now on my 'to watch for' list.

Comments

  1. While I sometimes have a tough time with short stories, it seems like this is a topic that really lends itself to the format. Each soldier's experience can be so different that reading a collection of them is probably the best way to see that. I'm going to be looking for this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I will say, the short format worked for the theme, too -- it felt insightful without being overwrought -- there was real impact in the brevity. V recommended!

      Delete
    2. Thank you for this honest, specific review. And thanks Shannon, for your interest in the book! It's available on my website, Powells, Amazon, etc. Your support means so much - a writer's audience can be so hard-earned. Happy reading!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for bringing this collection to my attention! I've added it to my "To request from the library once I get my tbr piles under control list" ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, I know that situation all too well! ;)

      Delete
    2. Jennifer, thanks for requesting it at your library! I appreciate your interest!

      Delete
  3. I'm not necessarily interested in stories of the military but am interested in stories about how people are impacted by war. This sounds like a very good, well-balanced look at that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa -- I agree -- I'm interested in women in war, but rarely that of active duty soldiers -- but Schultz conveyed quite eloquently, emotionally, briefly, sharply the way war impacts a wide range of people. Quite blew me away!

      Delete
    2. Thanks Audra and Lisa...I agree with both of you - ironically, I'm NOT that interested in war, either. For me it was more about the human element and also, those moments of disconnect in life that just don't add up...those things that keep us thinking. I appreciate that you saw the human element in the work, Audra, and I hope you enjoy the stories, Lisa.

      Delete
  4. I'm picky when it comes to short stories, but this sounds like a collection I would like.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anna, I can appreciate that -- it might be worth trying out -- or seeing if any of the stories are available online. I found them very punchy, in a good way, with a nice arc to each one -- even the flash fiction -- which I was dubious about!

      Delete
  5. I haven't read any flash fiction as of yet, but am interested in it, and in this collection in particular. It seems like there is much to discover in this one, and I like that it comes at you from so many directions and viewpoints. This is one I would like to read, and I'm glad that you gave it an encouraging and positive review.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was rather nuanced, I have to say, esp given the brevity of some of the pieces -- that's skill! Would love to hear your thoughts if you do get around to reading it!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Winter 2017 Bloggiesta To Do Post

Weekend reads and considering closing the blog...

Mood Ring Recommendations: Feeling...Indecisive

Creepy kids are creepy, especially when they ought to know better...