Afghan Post: A Memoir

Adrian Bonenberger, Author
Adrian Bonenberger. The Head and the Hand Press (www.theheadandthehand.com), $18 trade paper ISBN 978-0-9893125-2-3
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Bonenberger’s debut is a coming-of-age military memoir chronicling a young man’s journey to and through two tours in Afghanistan. Beginning in 2001 with his senior year at Yale, followed by a year teaching English in Japan, and later his decision to join the army, Bonenberger chronicles his time with letters written to family, friends, fellow soldiers along the way. This literary device has its benefits—mainly that it provides authentic, undigested insight into the daily life in military institution. On the other hand, it often prevents Bonenberger from emotionally connecting to the reader. Most of the letters consist of long explanations of army lingo or personality types he encounters in training camps or abroad. The passage of time is also hard to follow. He includes several letters to different people written over the course of a couple days, often filled with descriptions of the same events or thank you notes for gift packages. Whereas during the periods of high action, letters (and supplementary journal entries) are short and sparse, but provide the rare occasions when Bonenberger allows himself to be candid, such as his reaction to Afghani translators failing to show up for work. To this end, Bonenberger is at his best in the final fifth of the book as he details his second deployment, offering readers a more visceral account of the bumpy road of self-discovery for a young soldier at war. (Jan.)
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