Finished April 12
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
This novel takes place on Thanksgiving Day at Texas Stadium as the Dallas Cowboys go up against the Chicago Bears. Billy Lynn is nineteen and a member of Bravo Squad, a team of marines whose engagement in a recent action against Iraqi insurgents has made them national heroes. Footage of the action by an embedded Fox reporter has brought it more immediate recognition than most engagements that are just heard about. Billy was awarded a Silver Star for his actions. Bravo Squad has been touring America, attending a variety of events, and this is their last one before shipping back to Iraq to complete their tour of duty. They are travelling with Albert, a Hollywood producer who wants to make a movie about their story.
There are some flashbacks here, a major one is Billy's one-day visit with his family a few days ago. Billy is in the forces because of a criminal act he committed, albeit one with strong conviction behind it. His sister Kathryn, who he is close to and who he committed the act for, is urging him to contact a group she has heard of who helps soldiers who don't want to go back to Iraq. But Billy feels pulled between his hatred of the war and his bond with his fellow Bravo members.
Billy is young in many ways, and as we see his various interactions, with his team members, with a young woman he meets at the game and becomes enamored of, with the producer, with his family, we see both his maturity from his experiences and his innocence from his lack of experiences. Billy is still affected by the loss of one of his fellow squad members, Shroom, who was a mentor to him and who died in his arms during the action.
We see the goodness in these young men and the male banter, often lewd and irreverent, that occurs among them. These young men are contained energy, trained for action, and right now caught up in media attention that they aren't entirely comfortable with.
I felt for Billy, his struggle and his innocence here. He came alive for me.