Jennifer Vanderbes and Phil Klay
Thursday April 10, 2014
Jennifer Vanderbes and Phil Klay came together to discuss the topic of war in fiction and their latest books Redeployment (Klay) and The Secret of Raven Point (Vanderbes).
About Redeployment (Penguin Press HC)
Phil Klay’s Redeployment takes readers to the front lines of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking us to understand what happened there and what happened to the soldiers who returned. Interwoven with themes of brutality and faith, guilt and fear, helplessness and survival, the characters in these stories struggle to make meaning out of chaos.
In “Redeployment,” a soldier who has had to shoot dogs because they were eating human corpses must learn what it is like to return to domestic life in suburbia, surrounded by people “who have no idea where Fallujah is, where three members of your platoon died.” In “After Action Report,” a lance corporal seeks expiation for a killing he didn’t commit in order that his best friend be unburdened. A mortuary affairs marine tells about his experiences collecting remains—of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers both. A chaplain sees his understanding of Christianity, and his ability to provide solace through religion, tested by the actions of a ferocious colonel. And in the darkly comic “Money as a Weapons System,” a young Foreign Service officer is given the absurd task of helping Iraqis improve their lives by teaching them to play baseball. These stories reveal the intricate combination of monotony, bureaucracy, comradeship, and violence that make up a soldier’s daily life at war and the isolation, remorse, and sense of displacement that can accompany a soldier’s homecoming.
Redeployment is poised to become a classic in the tradition of war writing. Across nations and continents, Klay sets in devastating relief the two worlds a soldier inhabits: one of extremes and one of loss. Written with a hard-eyed realism and stunning emotional depth, this work marks Phil Klay as one of the most talented new voices of his generation.
“A powerful statement on the nature of war, violence, and the nuances of human nature.”
— Publishers Weekly, starred review
"It's the best thing written so far on what the war did to people's souls."
— Dexter Filkins, The New York Times
About The Secret of Raven Point (Scribner)
1943: When seventeen-year-old Juliet Dufresne receives a cryptic letter from her enlisted older brother pleading for help, and then finds out he’s been reported missing overseas, she lies about her age and volunteers as an army nurse to find him. Shy and awkward, Juliet is thrust into the bloody chaos of a field hospital, living in a sprawling encampment north of Rome where she forges new friendships with her fellow nurses and is increasingly consumed by the plight of her patients. One in particular, Christopher Barnaby, a deserter awaiting court martial, may hold the answer to her brother’s fate—but the trauma of war has left him unable to speak. Racing against the clock, Juliet works with an enigmatic young psychiatrist, Henry Willard, to heal Barnaby’s psychic wound before the authorities take him away and any clues as to her brother’s fate are forever lost. Plunged into the horrifying depths of one man’s combat memories, Juliet and Willard are forced to plumb the moral nuances of a so-called just war, and to face the dangers of their own deepening connection.
Reminiscent of Pat Barker’s Regeneration, The Secret of Raven Point is a war saga capturing the experiences of soldiers after the battles have ended. And as few novels have done, it depicts the ravages of war through the eyes of a young woman.
In luminous prose, Vanderbes tells the story of one girl’s fierce determination to find her brother as she comes of age in a time of unrelenting violence. The Secret of Raven Point is historical fiction at its best: haunting, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting.
“Readers will fall in love with the delightful Juliet, who is a smart and courageous heroine, and other hospital workers as they form friendships and struggle to accept tragedy and loss while treating their patients' physical and mental wounds. While not all the mysteries here are resolved, the only disappointing thing about this book is that it has to end.”
— Library Journal, starred review
Phil Klay is a graduate of Dartmouth College and a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in Iraq’s Anbar Province from January 2007 to February 2008 as a Public Affairs Officer. After being discharged he went to Hunter College and received an MFA. His story collection Redeployment was published by Penguin Press in March of 2014. His writing has also appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, the New York Daily News, Tin House, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012, and Fire and Forget: Short Stories from the Long War.
Jennifer Vanderbes is the author of the novels Easter Island and Strangers at the Feast and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Public Library Cullman Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Granta and has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in New York City with her daughter.