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Book Review: Lone Survivor

This is one of those books that poses problems for a reader and reviewer. It challenges concepts, perceptions, and pre-conceived notions. It is engaging, well written, well paced. The style is easy, a delight to read for one can in effect hear it -- a sign of a natural story teller -- even as you read. It pushes the range of emotions, with the reader laughing one page, and literally having tears stream down your face before two more pages are turned. That said, I would give much that this book need never have been written, or written for very different reasons.

Lone Survivor is a book that is hard to read, knowing the reason for it being written; yet, it is an easy read, a delight to read in most other respects. Marcus Luttrell had a mission, and I would deem it an unqualified success.

It is not just a tale of a mission gone bad, though that is a tame way of describing how horribly wrong things went and the losses suffered. It is not just a tale of how he came to be a part of that group and his part in the mission. Those are in some ways but a secondary part to the greater goal: bringing the people of Seal Team 10 to life for the reader, making them people with whom you can identify, empathize, and see as the individuals they were. Marcus Luttrell succeeds in humanizing them, in making them much more than numbers, or brief footnotes in a media story.

The tale he tells is a very human one, compelling in all the best ways of a man and a writer. Over the years, I've read accounts of Hell Week and training, some of them rather dry and technical, others somewhat self-aggrandizing. This is the first time I can honestly say that I felt it, that was presented in a way that made it realistic and understandable. In so doing, it made the rest of the story accessible.

From the writing, it is clear that Marcus Luttrell has a gift for telling the tale. I rather suspect that Patrick Robinson has helped sharpen that tale, given it the excellent pacing and structure of the journey from boy to man, recruit to SEAL, all encompassed within the framework of a journey to and on a mission from beginning to end. Yet, this is the story of a team and the individuals within, and it was Marcus' tale to tell. It is clear that he has been allowed to do so, and that the basic and fundamental humanity of all involved is there to see.

It is indeed a hard book to read, for the reader knows up front why it was written and what happens. Yet, it is a book that all should read, for there is much more to the story than death. There is much more than suffering. The reason it should be read is, as Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story. It should be read so that you meet the people, know them as well as you can, and see that the tragic circumstances are but the tip of the iceberg. You owe it to the participants to read and know them, to appreciate them for what they were. Most of all, you owe it to yourself to read that larger story, to understand as best you can the people within, how they came to be there, what they believed, and how they lived and died, and to empathize however you can with those they left behind.

This book does not simply tell their tale, it sings their song. Read it, and listen. Learn, appreciate, and strive.

LW

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