“Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” by Ben Fountain


The men of Bravo are not cold. It’s a chilly and windwhipped Thanksgiving Day with sleet and freezing rain forecast for late afternoon, but Bravo is nicely blazed on Jack and Cokes thanks to the epic crawl of game-day traffic and the limo’s minibar. Five drinks in forty minutes is probably pushing it, but Billy needs some refreshment after the hotel lobby, where overcaffeinated tag teams of grateful citizens trampolined right down the middle of his hangover. (1)

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk was a selection for the 2013 Tournament of Books. Though it went down early, the fans of it were ardent enough to make me still want to read it. And oh, I loved this book.

Billy Lynn is one of a handful of soldiers who survived a brutal and famous skirmish in Iraq. They’re brought back to America for a “victory” tour, which ends with the Thanksgiving football game just before they’re supposed to ship back out.

Billy is such a sympathetic narrator, and one who skewers the ironies of war and yet is somehow compassionate. One of the last war books I read I can barely remember. This, though, is going to stay with me.

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