On Two Fronts by Adam Fenner and Lance Taubold, 13 Thirty Books, September 2013
I read the blurb for this and thought, that is the most unique book idea I have stumbled across in a long time. A soldier on the front lines in Afghanistan and his best friend back home both writing about their individual experiences during his deployment. Adam is a soldier who actually enjoys being deployed, seems completely able to detach himself from friends, family, and home, and approaches war like it’s no big deal. Lance is the emotional, scared best friend left at home wondering if Adam is safe, what he is doing, and if he will come home.
The two writers have such different personalities. It was interesting to see steady, at-times-indifferent Adam juxtaposed against a very emotional, open Lance. For the most part, I enjoyed Adam’s account of war in Afghanistan. It is similar to other accounts I have read of what the war is really like over there. Adam is a very good writer, lots of details and descriptions that paint a picture of the base he is stationed at and the villages he patrols through. I also liked Lance’s side of things. He remains behind in Vegas and his words convey his anxiety over Adam’s safety, his relief at the sporadic emails he receives, reassuring him that Adam is alive if not always okay. The book is a study in human relationships and how war and separation change them.
And now for the but….
But if you are an animal lover and if senseless violence against animals offends you, you may not like this book.
Afghanistan has a lot of feral dogs. I know this from having read many soldiers’ books about befriending, adopting, and sometimes bringing these dogs back to the U.S. after the deployment ends. Unlike American strays, not too many people care about these dogs and many are left to fend for themselves and become very wild. I understand that they can be dangerous to soldiers and can carry diseases and that sometimes they need to be euthanized to protect people. What I don’t understand is a two-sentence account of an American soldier intentionally killing a dog that the soldiers had seemed to adopt and care for. From Adam’s very brief description, it seems like the soldier killed the dog for his own entertainment. I don’t need to launch into an explanation of how sick and wrong that is. And this incident of dog killing isn’t the only one. Adam himself tries to “euthanize” a feral dog and only manages to give it a painful bullet wound instead of killing it. These animals have terrible lives and barely manage to survive. They don’t need American soldiers killing them for sport or doing piss-poor jobs of putting them out of their misery. These incidents really pissed me off. They aren’t even a large portion of the book, but I am an animal rights advocate, so I can’t just dismiss these incidents as a part of war. I understand that is it is necessary sometimes to kill an animal for protection, but, dammit, do it correctly, quickly, and for the right reasons.
So, if you can stomach shooting dogs, this is an interesting glimpse into the lives of soldiers and the friends and family they leave behind when they are deployed.