I am perhaps the last person who truly wanted to read this book to finally do it. This was the very first book I ever bought on my Kindle. Several Kindles later, I finally got around to reading it. What threw me over the top was 1) noticing it became a movie while I've got a book that was bought on the strength of a pre-release review, which inspired me to 2) borrow the audiobook from the library and that gave me a deadline. I usually speed up audio at least a little, but this guy sounded like a chipmunk with any speed at all. He also had an annoying way of portraying all women with what I can only describe as a "stereotypical gay voice." It was so bad and so slow that I got impatient, pulled out the Kindle & just read the darned book already.
The title is one-hundred percent spot on. Almost all 315 pages take place on Thanksgiving Day at a Cowboy's football home game.
Billy Lynn is a 19 year old kid who ended up in Iraq after a judge gave him a choice. He and “Bravo squad” -- 8 close buddies and their Sargeant "Fine," are now War Heroes after a battle is caught on video and shown on Fox News. They've been brought home to do a two-week "Victory Tour," oh and bury Shroom -- one of their own who was killed in the skirmish. Shroom was Billy Lynn's closest friend, and while he's not physically there, he is ever present in Billy Lynn's mind. While on tour they've picked up Albert, a Hollywood type who has bought the rights to their story and is trying to quickly fashion a big movie "deal" before they all go back to Iraq. Oh and the US Army would prefer they didn't mention they're going back.
Billy Lynn comes off at first as a stupid hick, but we learn otherwise. He may lack formal education, but he's been reading over in Iraq, with recommendations from Shroom. He's read many of the books that people who don't sign up for the military pretend to read. His list is basically a "great American Books" series. He's simplistic but sharp. He lacks confidence to act impressed by himself though, and he's never sure that what he says is on target. What he has is a clear view on right and wrong, and good insight into the differences between those who fight and those who talk about the fight.
The satire is deep, rich and almost constant. It's well-written with great metaphors and one-liners. There's also a wonderful scene where they're greeted by yet another adoring, rich Friend of George Dubya who is foolish enough to proclaim that he's drilling oil "for the troops." Fine loses it in one of the most exquisite tirades I've ever read.
I wondered what Ben Fountain would do with the current climate and all the contradictions involved in today's convoluted "patriotism;" kneeling for the anthem, or dreamers who have fought in the US services being deported...
Satire can be emotionally gripping, but this one wasn't. I laughed aloud and nodded agreement with the Bravos frequently. I just wasn't much affected by what I read. A book about the public-military disconnect, performative versus actual patriotism, the rich keeping their kids home while making money off the war machine; a loveable, slightly neurotic, too-smart-to-be-educated main character: this one should have hit my sweet spot, but it missed the mark for me. Nonetheless, I would still recommend it without hesitation to anyone interested in the topics I've mentioned.