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Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Cover of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Published by: Harper Collins

Published on: May 1, 2012

Page Count: 320

Genre: Fiction

My Reading Format: Audiobook purchased with a credit gifted to me by the best dad in the whole wide world

Audiobook Published by: Harper Audio

Narrator: Oliver Wyman

Audiobook Length: 11 hours 39 minutes

Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook

Summary from the Publisher:

A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at “the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal”—three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crew—has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America’s most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny’s Child.

Among the Bravos is the Silver Star–winning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys’ hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his family—his worried sisters and broken father—and Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy’s mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.

Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-arms—soldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.

My Review

My dad gifted me with his unused Audible credits (who let’s that happen?) last fall and I snatched up a copy of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk because I had been anticipating a nomination for the Audie Awards and I wanted to be as prepared as possible. I typically shy away from reading things that revolve around the politics of today. I find that those books tend to preach to the choir. I also get enough of modern political commentary watching the news, at work, and through social media. I like to explore and learn new things when I read, but I also want to enjoy what I’m reading. I do not enjoy politics. While this audiobook did not receive an Audie nomination after all (and that is a shame), I’m so thankful that I listened to it and didn’t let the politics of the Iraq War get in the way. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is an important story and an excellent audiobook.

After having read this book, what stood out to me were the reactions to the Bravo Squad. Almost everywhere they went, they were mobbed by people wanting to thank them for their bravery and their sacrifices for our country. This is a far cry from the reception many Vietnam veterans received when they returned home, but materially it really isn’t that much different. Whether it’s taking out one’s rage against a war on those drafted to fight it or verbally building the troops up to make yourself feel better about staying home to even to take advantage of them for your own personal gain, the troops have no personal identity. They are pawns to their country’s diverse political agendas both on foreign battlefields and at home.

Although I worked with Oliver Wyman in December during my Baby, It’s Cold Outside meme, I hadn’t yet listened to any of his audiobooks. I knew that Bob has enjoyed his work and he has excellent taste in narrators. Bob is spot on about Oliver. He made Billy Lynn, the Bravo Squad, and his experiences at Texas Stadium feel like they were happening right in front of my eyes. Despite all that they’ve seen in combat, their innocence and youth oozed out of Wyman’s narration, making the realities of their situation that much more prominent. A special highlight of the audiobooks is the singing of the National Anthem. Touches like that are what set audiobooks apart from print. I’d much rather listen to Wyman sing than myself.

I had trouble remembering that this book was set back during George W. Bush’s administration because Beyoncé was performing at the Super Bowl while I was listening. Yes, I did listen to this title quite a while ago, but that I couldn’t let it go without reviewing it should indicate just how strong of an experience it was for me. It also has me reconsidering my apprehension of politically themed books. After all, they give you a safe place to explore everything, even those things that make you uncomfortable or unsure of yourself. Unlike modern society, a book lets you express yourself freely and is never a hater. Read, explore, and grow, my friend.

5 Comments

  • At 2013.07.26 11:53, Serena said:

    This is on my must read list.

    • At 2013.07.26 16:40, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

      I’m not a fan of politics either but this does sound good. Is it based on a true story?

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      • At 2013.07.27 16:38, Sandy said:

        I think this book was listed in the top 100 books ever in EW a couple of weeks ago. I need to get my hands on this!!!

        • At 2013.07.29 11:40, Jennifer said:

          I almost gave up on this book in the beginning but I’m so glad I stuck with it. Great read.

          • At 2013.08.02 10:37, Ti said:

            My love for this one grew on me as I was reading it. It took some time for me to get into it. I am not a fan of war and politics in general but this was different. I really felt the precarious nature of life and how these young men could be affected.

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