Review of Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman

22609593In Green On Blue, Elliot Ackerman portrays the savagery of war and the terrible consequences suffered by the countries and people caught within its grip.

Aziz and Ali are young brothers growing up in the small Afghan town of Sperkai. Their lives are simple, but happy, until war invades – “The war that came after the Russians but before the Americans…”- and makes them orphans, changing their lives forever.

Ali is injured, and permanently disabled. To pay for his care, Aziz joins the special U.S.-funded army to fight against the Afghan group which bombed their new village. Aziz experiences the true ferocity of war as he battles to gain vengeance for Ali, thereby winning him honor.

But everything Aziz thought he knew about his cause and comrades, his life itself, is shattered by what he learns in his struggle to fight. The line between the good and the bad is no longer black and white, but a blurry shade of gray.

Elliot Ackerman served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, so his knowledge of the country and its people is first-hand. As a soldier, Ackerman experienced the complex political system that has been held hostage by fighting factions, with its people trapped in the crosshairs of battle.

I’m not sure why, but I had a very hard time reading this book.  It’s very well-written, almost lyrical at times, but it was still hard for me to connect with the characters and their hardships.

Is it that the Afghan culture is so totally foreign to me that I can’t feel the proper empathy? Or maybe, it’s because Ackerman’s honest prose portrays a situation that is so devastating and uncomfortable that the reader can’t help but feel unease and hopelessness from its pages. I don’t know.

(Note: Provided to me by Scribner for review)

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