Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain was my final and 40th book of 2012! I finished it on December 31 as part of the NYE Readathon 2012 hosted by The Picky Girl.
The year is 2004 or 2005. After an intense firefight with Iraqi insurgents caught on tape by Fox News transformed the soldiers of the Bravo Squad into instant in-demand heroes, the men are sent back to the United States for a two-week “Victory Tour” in order to revitalize support for the war. Specialist Billy Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native, received the Silver Star for his action during the attack. This story takes place over the final, eventful day of the Victory Tour, when the Bravo Squad is to be honored at the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day game.
There is a large cast of characters in Billy Lynn’s, but they all have distinct personalities and are memorable. There’s Billy of course, a smart yet innocent young man, fairly cynical and jaded by his experiences and desperate for a role model figure in his life. Others include the men of the Bravo Squad, a corporate executive, a Hollywood producer trying to make a film of Bravo’s acts of bravery, Cowboys players and cheerleaders, and even Destiny’s Child. Numerous football fans and patriots repeatedly thank Bravo for its service. Many of the characters are obviously hyperbolic stereotypes, but that seems strategic and deliberate on the part of the author. It is fiction, after all.
Billy Lynn’s read a little bit like a stream-of-consciousness book for me. Billy is in the moment at the stadium with his fellow soldiers, and then suddenly he’s thinking back to his last couple of days at his parents’ house with his family, and just as suddenly he’s wrestling internally with deeply personal and philosophical questions concerning the war, for example. But Fountain makes these transitions flow evenly without being jarring. Fountain also utilizes elements of satire, sarcasm, and irony to get points across in the book (the American public doesn’t make the same personal sacrifices it once did for war efforts, for example).
I really enjoyed Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Fountain’s book is a cutting social commentary on American values and the disconnect between military and civilian life during wartime.
Read from December 28 to 31, 2012.