Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book Review: Purple Heart by Patricia McCormick

Private Matt Duffy isn’t old enough to legally drink, but he’s old enough to fight in Iraq. When he wakes up in an army hospital in the Green Zone with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and little memory of how he was injured, he’s given a Purple Heart medal. As Matt struggles to get better so he can rejoin his squad, he keeps having flashes of an Iraqi boy he befriended that he might have killed in the incident that took him out of commission.

There are two sections to this novel – in the first, Matt is mostly in a haze, protected in the cocoon of calm that is the Green Zone. In the second, Matt rejoins his squad and we see him and his buddies in action – a false bravado covering up stark terror.

The writing is tight and revealing without ever being sensational. I especially liked this passage – a conversation about the death of Matt’s squad leader:

“Benson died fighting for our country,” Justin finally said. “He died for us. I don’t care how it went down, he died a beautiful death.”

“If I’m going to die,” Wolf said, “I want to be doing something important, something where they can say ‘he died doing something for somebody else,’ not in a plane crash or in, like, some drunk-driving accident.”

“The other two nodded. “You know what Johnny Rambo says, boys,” Justin said. “Live for nothing or die for something.”

Matt had never really understood that line. (…) The whole squad quoted Rambo all the time and that was another thing that seemed weird to Matt: how when things in Iraq got confusing or deep, that the person they turned to was a fake action hero from the ‘80s. (p. 150-151)


The novel illustrates very clearly how complex the war in Iraq really is. For example, it might seem to some that there is no harm in a soldier befriending locals. But military policy forbids it for a very good reason - one that’s actually quite major to the plot, so I won’t spoil it here. Suffice to say, I definitely teared up more than once while reading this one.

PURPLE HEART is available now in hardcover. Find out more about it on the author’s website.

14 comments:

bookaholic said...

Novels about war always make me so depressed. I hate wars!!

Kathleen said...

This one sounds like it would pull in my heart strings. I will have to be in the right mood to read it.

Staci said...

My son Marc read this one a few months ago and really liked it. Unfortunately it made it back to the library without me reading it. I do like mcCormick's style so I may have to check this one out again. Especially now that my oldest son is officially a Marine.

Zibilee said...

This sounds like a really interesting read, and although I have read about quite a few wars, I have never read anything about the war in Iraq. Great review, Lenore. I also liked the quote you provided and think that I will be looking forward to this book. Thanks for the great review!

bermudaonion said...

Wow! When Vance's friend served in Iraq he wasn't old enough to drink either. Luckily nothing so horrible happened to him. Sounds like a book I need to read.

Donna said...

I loved this book as well. I read it in a matter of hours.

Shweta said...

I had seen this cover but never actually read the blurb. Now after your review I want to read this book. Quotes you used are really good especially the last line :)

Tribute Books said...

Will definitely give this one a try.Thanks!

MissAttitude said...

This one sounds like a tear jerker. All wars are complicated but since I'm living during the Iraq war, I can especially understand and appreciate (?) how complex the issues in Iraq (and Afghanistan) are.

It makes no sense to me either that I can't drive a rental car at 18, but I can die for my country. God bless our soldiers. They are so brave! I don't think I would be able to do what they do.

Kelly said...

I really liked Sold by this author. Seems like she has a knack for tackling huge, scary topics like this. Thanks for the review...I have always meant to read more by her but forgot about it so this was a good reminder!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I want! How did I miss this one. This is juicy and complex sounding. I want to know more about this story.

Anna said...

Sounds like a good one. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

christina said...

This book sounds amazing!

Wedding Cakes Pictures said...

I just finished reading this one, I devoured it, I couldn't put it down!