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Brooke King
ARRSE Rating
1 Mushroom Head
This book is a memoir by a lady who served as a Private Soldier (Engineer) in the US Army during the Iraq War. She is now a Professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University in Florida.

The book tries to tell the tale of her reasons for joining up, some of her experiences and deeds whilst in Iraq, a secret love affair, pregnancy discharge and ‘what happened next, including PTSD’. The synopsis promises much.

Sadly the writing is disjointed, short descriptions of events with no context or even tangential reference as to why they are there, are distributed randomly throughout. There is no real storyline or historical timeline - it bobs back and forth throughout her military career, upbringing and relationships with her family back at home. I found it to be a series of longwinded, sometimes beautifully descriptive, random writings on a range of military and non-military topics. I have every sympathy for the lady’s brain being scrambled by what she has seen and experienced, but feel that this writing, which is very obviously part of her dealing with it all, is not really for publication in this form – a good Editor is needed.

Reading between the lines, she was a difficult soldier to manage before and during deployment. She mentions often that no-one in her unit liked her. From her description of her reasons for enlisting, I feel that she shouldn’t have been accepted into the Army. However, as I don’t know how US recruitment works, it may be normal to send people into war zones who are already totally mentally messed up by their upbringing and marital circumstances. No-one seems to have noticed her problems before she went, and when she returned everything was focussed on her pregnancy, getting her out of the Army quickly, and court-marshalling the father. The US Army does not come out of this well.

I wish her well in her writing career. She has published much non-fiction on the theme of returning veterans and their problems. However, I cannot give this book more than one mushroom head.
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