Eat the Apple: A Memoir
A soldier’s experience of war has always been difficult to capture in words, but Matt Young has found a solution, said The Economist. The former U.S. Marine infantryman changes voices from page to page in his new memoir: “Some pages are tender and wistful, others repulsive, still others funny,” and that fragmented approach matches the disjointed life of the combat grunt. Young, 31, served three tours in Iraq during the peak years of the American occupation, and he has “an eye for the absurd” and no use for standard narrative pacing. In Eat the Apple, “violence explodes on the page suddenly, like improvised explosive devices,” and the voice that picks up in the aftermath might be dazed, exhilarated, or even off-putting, but it will be candid.
Young, by his own admission, was not the most well-adjusted 18-year-old who ever joined the Marines, said Kevin Hamilton in The Seattle Times. When he signed up—the morning after a drunken night during which he crashed his car into a fire hydrant—he was hoping for a shortcut to maturity. Instead, military service rewarded him with lessons in how to blindly follow orders and endure long stretches of boredom interrupted by moments of terror. Masturbation turns out to be so central to the grunt’s experience—useful for staying awake during guard duty, for example—that Young has chosen to devote a chapter to it. The first time Young returns home to his fiancée and family, he tries to give his experiences a heroic gloss, said Mark Bowden in The New York Times. But he’s far more honest with us. He once shot a stray dog, he confesses, just to have something to do.
“Like Young’s family, most of us readers still want to be told war stories where violence and death are redeemed by a larger purpose,” said Maureen Corrigan in NPR.org. Young isn’t willing to offer us such consolation. In this “brilliant and barbed” memoir, however, “he has found the language to convey the messy totality of his experiences.” Whatever your expectations might be, “that’s just about all the redemption you’ll find.”