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Still Come Home by Katey Schultz
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Still Come Home (edition 2019)

by Katey Schultz (Author)

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213,847,594 (5)None
Member:TimBazzett
Title:Still Come Home
Authors:Katey Schultz (Author)
Info:Apprentice House (2019), 264 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:fiction, afghanistan war, ptsd, combat, katey schultz

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Still Come Home by Katey Schultz

Recently added byTimBazzett, davidabrams

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I was lucky enough to get an early look at Katey Schultz's first book, FLASHES OF WAR, more than six years ago, and was simply blown away by it, astounded at how this young woman with no military experience or connections could write so realistically of war and its participants in such an authentic voice. That little book has quietly and steadily gained followers and fans. And now she has produced this book, STILL COME HOME, an equally authentic novel of the war in Afghanistan, which, eighteen years on, continues to mark time, trudging towards infinity.

In the intervening years between the two books, Schultz has continued to study these "forever wars" through reading, research and forging friendships with veterans of the wars. And it has paid off. Because STILL COME HOME is a gripping and absorbing story of war, and, like the first book, it gives us not just the American viewpoint, but also the Afghan side. In fact, this new book takes its principal characters from two of the stories in FLASHES OF WAR. Nathan Miller, a lieutenant from a North Carolina National Guard unit, was first introduced in "The Quiet Kind," along with his wife, Tenley, and their small daughter. And the Afghan couple whose story unfolds here were first seen in "Aaseya & Rahim."

Miller, presented much more fully here, as squad leader of the "Spartans," is a man filled with guilt over the death of one of his men during a previous deployment in the Korengal region. This time around he is determined to bring his team home intact, but first they must complete one final mission, to the remote village of Imar, which is the home of Aaseya and Rahim.

Schultz uses a shifting storyline most effectively, giving us alternating chapters, first from the American side, then the Afghan. Miller's story is fleshed out by flashbacks of his Indiana upbringing, his courtship and marriage to Tenley, and their life together in a small town in North Carolina. Emphasis is placed not only on the very real and present danger of his current deployment, but also on the strains and tensions this has placed on their marriage. Nathan wants desperately to be a good father and husband, but finds himself torn by the pull of war -

"The way it feels like family. How do you tell your wife that you love the very thing that took you away from her? That you kill in order to lie next to her again? You don't tell her. And even if you did, you'd have to get to her first. You'd have to make it home."

And later, when he does get back home -

"... he still struggled with the parts of himself he hates ... that these are sometimes the parts he misses the most - combat; that dopamine-crazed siblinghood where every move matters ... Everyday life pales in comparison to the constant presence of death."

The story of Aaseya and Rahim is equally compelling. Aaseya, orphaned at fourteen by the war, is forced to marry Rahim (twenty-three years older), who himself was sold as a child, trained as a "dancing boy," sexually abused by wealthy merchants, and discarded. Their marriage is, to say the least, troubled - and childless, a further blot in their small, close-knit community. But then a feral, orphaned boy enters their orbit, offering a possibility of family.

The way these parallel stories, parallel lives, intersect and build inevitably to a violent and tragic climax - well, no spoilers from me, youll just have to read the book.

In an epilogue to FLASHES OF WAR, Schultz tried to explain why she wrote about war, admitting how ignorant she'd been of the current war - her own generation's war.

"Right or wrong, 'their' side or 'ours,' I wanted to know, on the level of basic human experience, what were these wars actually like? How did people operate under extreme conditions with less-than-ideal tools for survival? ... What were the impacts of war inside the family home or in the far reaches of an individual's mind?"

Well, with STILL COME HOME Schultz continues to try to answer those questions, this time in a longer form, but still employing all the finely honed skills she learned writing flash fiction. Taut, moving, explosive, gut-wrenching - this is simply one helluva read. Once again, bravo, Ms Schultz! My very highest recommendation.

- Tim Bazzett, author of the memoir, BOOKLOVER ( )
  TimBazzett | Sep 22, 2019 |
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