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A war memoir of unusual literary beauty and power from the acclaimed poet who wrote the poem “The Hurt Locker.” In 2003, Sergeant Brian Turner crossed the line of departure with a convoy of soldiers headed into the Iraqi desert. Now he lies awake each night beside his sleeping wife, imagining himself as a drone aircraft, hovering over the terrains of Bosnia and Vietnam, Iraq A war memoir of unusual literary beauty and power from the acclaimed poet who wrote the poem “The Hurt Locker.” In 2003, Sergeant Brian Turner crossed the line of departure with a convoy of soldiers headed into the Iraqi desert. Now he lies awake each night beside his sleeping wife, imagining himself as a drone aircraft, hovering over the terrains of Bosnia and Vietnam, Iraq and Northern Ireland, the killing fields of Cambodia and the death camps of Europe. In this breathtaking memoir, award-winning poet Brian Turner retraces his war experience—pre-deployment to combat zone, homecoming to aftermath. Free of self-indulgence or self-glorification, his account combines recollection with the imagination's efforts to make reality comprehensible. Across time, he seeks parallels in the histories of others who have gone to war, especially his taciturn grandfather (World War II), father (Cold War), and uncle (Vietnam). Turner also offers something that is truly rare in a memoir of violent conflict—he sees through the eyes of the enemy, imagining his way into the experience of the "other." Through it all, he paints a devastating portrait of what it means to be a soldier and a human being.


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A war memoir of unusual literary beauty and power from the acclaimed poet who wrote the poem “The Hurt Locker.” In 2003, Sergeant Brian Turner crossed the line of departure with a convoy of soldiers headed into the Iraqi desert. Now he lies awake each night beside his sleeping wife, imagining himself as a drone aircraft, hovering over the terrains of Bosnia and Vietnam, Iraq A war memoir of unusual literary beauty and power from the acclaimed poet who wrote the poem “The Hurt Locker.” In 2003, Sergeant Brian Turner crossed the line of departure with a convoy of soldiers headed into the Iraqi desert. Now he lies awake each night beside his sleeping wife, imagining himself as a drone aircraft, hovering over the terrains of Bosnia and Vietnam, Iraq and Northern Ireland, the killing fields of Cambodia and the death camps of Europe. In this breathtaking memoir, award-winning poet Brian Turner retraces his war experience—pre-deployment to combat zone, homecoming to aftermath. Free of self-indulgence or self-glorification, his account combines recollection with the imagination's efforts to make reality comprehensible. Across time, he seeks parallels in the histories of others who have gone to war, especially his taciturn grandfather (World War II), father (Cold War), and uncle (Vietnam). Turner also offers something that is truly rare in a memoir of violent conflict—he sees through the eyes of the enemy, imagining his way into the experience of the "other." Through it all, he paints a devastating portrait of what it means to be a soldier and a human being.

30 review for My Life as a Foreign Country: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Craig Werner

    Great book, probably the best on the growing shelf of writing by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As much poetry as memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country assembles a montage of fragments--images, memories, dreams--that communicate the multiple dimensions of experiences that are at the same time intensely individual and shared with other veterans. There's a profound sense of shared humanity at the core of the book, reflected in his references to other wars (often via the stories of famil Great book, probably the best on the growing shelf of writing by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As much poetry as memoir, My Life as a Foreign Country assembles a montage of fragments--images, memories, dreams--that communicate the multiple dimensions of experiences that are at the same time intensely individual and shared with other veterans. There's a profound sense of shared humanity at the core of the book, reflected in his references to other wars (often via the stories of family members who served in WWI, WWII and Vietnam) and his ability to imagine scenes from the perspective of those he was forced, in the moment, to deal with as "enemies." There are some deep blues sections concerning Turner's relationships with families, friends and his wife. The themes will be familiar to veterans, the people in their lives and anyone who's read Redeployment, The Long Walk or The Yellow Birds, but there's nothing vaguely conventional about the way Turner handles them. The resolution of the book, which involves a sweat lodge ceremony, does a beautiful job of sounding a note of hope without ignoring or trivializing his on-going struggle.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Trish

    This shattering memoir describes clear as photographs the heat signatures of memory, the “shadows articulated by light.” It is terribly beautiful and the reverse, both. Shards of sentences fracture the consciousness. Turner tells us the pop-pop-pop of machine guns is patient and sounds sometimes like laughter, or “metallic elocution.” It is queer to see, hear, speak the gorgeous language in this book and realize it describes the brittle, blistering, terrifying. Killing people with precision instr This shattering memoir describes clear as photographs the heat signatures of memory, the “shadows articulated by light.” It is terribly beautiful and the reverse, both. Shards of sentences fracture the consciousness. Turner tells us the pop-pop-pop of machine guns is patient and sounds sometimes like laughter, or “metallic elocution.” It is queer to see, hear, speak the gorgeous language in this book and realize it describes the brittle, blistering, terrifying. Killing people with precision instruments. Not always intentional. The discordance is terrible. Turner tells us of the cold hard smooth perfection of chrome-plated steel firing pin. Fear and pitilessness are paired. I think as I read about these soldiers joshing and murmuring to one another about field pussy as they sight their rifles from the flat roof of an abandoned elementary school—do the Iraqi insurgents that are their targets think about these men as men? Turner imagines a bomb maker at his craft. He is an artist. The irony is cold and red and hot and black. Turner tells us he always wanted to be a soldier. He is from a family of soldiers stretching through a flamethrower on Guam to the Franco-Prussian war and one of the very last successful cavalry charges in modern warfare, the Battle of Mars-la-Tour. These men, these soldiers, survived. As a young boy, Turner practiced surviving. In the California scrub he dug trenches stocked with provisions. He practiced martial arts with his father in a makeshift dojo. He enlists in the cavalry. He thought it would make him a man. It did. But what man is this? His remembered images startle us into recognition and give no mercy. The language lingers like the taste of cordite on the tongue or the smell of smoke in the hair: The tremble of hair on a dead soldier’s head like sea grass on a sand dune; A moustache, found alone, on a bomb-cratered street; The dotted line traced from the Japanese kamikaze to the young woman in her homemade and heavily-laden vest. A man is not big enough for his memories, Turner tells us. America is not big enough to hold the memories that are spilling out of the soldiers not big enough to hold them. The soldiers are dying of their memories. They could unpack some of those memories. Some of it is the detritus and the waste of war. Where do we put the waste? A Billy Lynn moment occurs when a colonel visits Turner’s stateside training site and tells them he needs audio and visual for a video game. Wha-a-a? All in the life of a soldier…ours is not to question why…the queer cadence of the top-down command catch the exhausted men sideways. The work, the name of Brian Turner will ever evoke in me a sighed outbreath, an inward turn...and joy, hope. The beauty and sorrow is palpable, real, painful. Spoken. Written. Acknowledged. Poet warrior. Can we ever have enough of them?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    Brian Turner’s memoir My Life as a Foreign Country is a profound and compassionate meditation on the pain and confusion of war. Its impact deserves commendation beside such classics as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War. With vivid musings and mesmerizing insight, Turner recounts his experiences as both a Bosnian and Iraq war veteran. In each of the memorable 136 chapters/sections that comprise this unforgettable book, you feel the aching memory of every inc Brian Turner’s memoir My Life as a Foreign Country is a profound and compassionate meditation on the pain and confusion of war. Its impact deserves commendation beside such classics as Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Philip Caputo’s A Rumor of War. With vivid musings and mesmerizing insight, Turner recounts his experiences as both a Bosnian and Iraq war veteran. In each of the memorable 136 chapters/sections that comprise this unforgettable book, you feel the aching memory of every incident that Turner shares. He probes the loneliness and despair of what soldiering demands and what combat does to the soldier’s mind. In Turner’s case, he has used his experiences to gain a stronger willingness to understand and forgive, even as he can never forget what happened. His appreciation for the value of life and his gratitude for having survived his tours of duty are particularly powerful messages that echo throughout the book. In total, Turner’s poetic vision provides visceral imagery and resonant language that has the power to transport readers into the past and illuminate the present condition of war. This book forces us to examine our own conscience and humanity.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Joe McGee

    While I was fortunate to never have seen combat, I was a soldier. My first orders sent me to South Korea where, at 22-years-old, I led my first platoon. What Brian has done here is to paint the soldier's canvas in such an honest, visceral, emotional way that lends itself to a level of understanding that anyone, soldier or civilian, can directly connect to. It is a portrait of a man; a poetic, romantic, philosophical, genuine spirit that tries to find meaning in the world amidst the wreckage and While I was fortunate to never have seen combat, I was a soldier. My first orders sent me to South Korea where, at 22-years-old, I led my first platoon. What Brian has done here is to paint the soldier's canvas in such an honest, visceral, emotional way that lends itself to a level of understanding that anyone, soldier or civilian, can directly connect to. It is a portrait of a man; a poetic, romantic, philosophical, genuine spirit that tries to find meaning in the world amidst the wreckage and debris - something we all experience at one time or another, at some level. This is a beautiful and exhilarating tour of a man who walked through the valley of death and emerged with a more profound appreciation for life and those in it. This is a bold and powerful book about what it means to be alive; to be truly alive in a world that makes it too easy to shuffle along, one foot in front of the other. Thank you, Brian, for writing this memoir, for letting us into your heart and, in doing so, making our hearts just a little bit bigger and a lot bolder.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Murphy

    I wanted to read this memoir because it was recommended to me by one of my favorite memoir writers, Kelle Groom. Like Turner, Groom published a couple books of poetry before publishing a memoir and we can see the lyric DNA here in both books' bones. The similarities between the two memoirs do not end there. Both My Life as a Foreign Country and I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl feature dense, non-linear sections with a strong focus on image and a seriously courageous and thorough descripti I wanted to read this memoir because it was recommended to me by one of my favorite memoir writers, Kelle Groom. Like Turner, Groom published a couple books of poetry before publishing a memoir and we can see the lyric DNA here in both books' bones. The similarities between the two memoirs do not end there. Both My Life as a Foreign Country and I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl feature dense, non-linear sections with a strong focus on image and a seriously courageous and thorough description of pain and suffering. I found Turner's book extremely difficult to read, and I mean that as a compliment, and I mean it in many ways. I could read this text only in about 15-minute sittings. I had to keep walking away to enter my own world again for a moment. That was partly due to the thick, descriptive, sometimes surreal and fantastic language, but it was also at times due to the intensity of the subject matter. Through Turner's prose, I learned more about the graphic and violent nature of the work of a soldier than I have from any film or photograph. We also get moments that are deeply philosophical. I'll share two of them here. "And for a moment, I knew— here was the great body of Death. A portion of the inheritance we all share." "Maybe it isn’t that it’s so difficult coming home, but that home isn’t a big enough space for all that I must bring to it."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I rarely stop reading a book before I have finished, but My Life as a Foreign Country is being added to that very short list. I understand that Brian Turner, in addition to being an Iraq War veteran, is a poet. Well, he injects a little too much poetic prose into this thin memoir. In addition to many lines that may be beautiful to read, but upon reflection have no meaning ("...the early morning light illuminates the translucent nature of the grass in its subtle gesture toward infinity." Huh?), T I rarely stop reading a book before I have finished, but My Life as a Foreign Country is being added to that very short list. I understand that Brian Turner, in addition to being an Iraq War veteran, is a poet. Well, he injects a little too much poetic prose into this thin memoir. In addition to many lines that may be beautiful to read, but upon reflection have no meaning ("...the early morning light illuminates the translucent nature of the grass in its subtle gesture toward infinity." Huh?), Turner also uses dream sequences, sometimes shifting from fact to dream in the same paragraph. His dreamy poetic visions started to feel redundant, and after nearly reading half the book, I realized that I could not put myself through the last half of this disappointing war memoir. I have read some great war memoirs over the years, but this is not one of them.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jeanette

    There were a couple of sections that I understood, but the rest was so fragmented that it was, to me, nearly unreadable. He does this stream of consciousness jump from thought to thought that is so scattered it conveys more a mood of jumpiness, rather than any language meaning for more than a few details of each action. He's also doing a comparative action with his ancestors in battle or war situations at the same time. Oftentimes, you may miss the connection and the context material to their pla There were a couple of sections that I understood, but the rest was so fragmented that it was, to me, nearly unreadable. He does this stream of consciousness jump from thought to thought that is so scattered it conveys more a mood of jumpiness, rather than any language meaning for more than a few details of each action. He's also doing a comparative action with his ancestors in battle or war situations at the same time. Oftentimes, you may miss the connection and the context material to their placements or deployment operations is often missing. Not my taste, this kind of writing. This man does not know himself well, and can impart what he does know in an emotionally base way, but not at all in cognitive sense. Poetry of profound and brief habits falls outside my territory for appreciation. Less is not always more either. Definitely that is true here.

  8. 5 out of 5

    David Jones

    Turner's memoir in narrative poetry nails a deep dive down into a somber topic: war. Turner's genius manifests in pitting his life against the dramatic scars of his service in the Army's Infantry. Turner talks so much about ghosts and dreams and the lost. But he does so in a way that only cherishes the life of his army fellows. MLFC is a brilliant epic about pursuing life after war and living with a thousand dream spectators who either beckon back to war or a hard quitting.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    A memoir. Yes, but the poetic prose is hypnotic in the telling. Moving through WWI, WWII, Vietnam and the experiences of his great-grandfather, grandfather and uncle add to his sense that war is timeless and continuous. "How does anyone leave a war behind them, no matter what war it is, and somehow walk into the rest of his life?" Mesmerizing!

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tina Panik

    Honest. Original. A book to savor.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve Petherbridge

    Brian Turner is an unusual combination, in modern warfare anyway, of being an acclaimed poet and a professional soldier who has served with the U.S. Army in Bosnia-Herzegovina and later in Iraq. I have read three war memoirs this year including "Storm Of Steel By Ernst Junger" and "All Quiet On The Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque". All these three books confirm that war is a dirty business, there are no real victors and young men serving in armies and civilians are severely traumatised and Brian Turner is an unusual combination, in modern warfare anyway, of being an acclaimed poet and a professional soldier who has served with the U.S. Army in Bosnia-Herzegovina and later in Iraq. I have read three war memoirs this year including "Storm Of Steel By Ernst Junger" and "All Quiet On The Western Front By Erich Maria Remarque". All these three books confirm that war is a dirty business, there are no real victors and young men serving in armies and civilians are severely traumatised and emotionally damaged at best. Turner, the poet, shines through this extraordinary well written and lyrical memoir. The success of its unusual format of short and concise, but, tellingly descriptive chapters is a tribute to both him and his editor and grips the reader's attention. I read this book mostly on a damp and dismal Dublin Sunday. It is a page turner. I cannot better the description by Tim O'Brien, author of the great Vietnam memoir, "The Things They Carried." He describes the book as "brilliant and beautiful. It surely ranks with the best war memoirs I've ever encountered - a humane, heartbreaking and expertly crafted work of literature." Turner considers not only his own wars (the recent barbarism of Bosnia and Iraq) but those of his father, uncles, grandfathers and great grandfathers (Vietnam, Iwo Jima, Gettysburg). "My Life as a Foreign Country" is a kind of surreal diary of American intervention and conflict, a self exploratory coming to terms by Brian Turner in dealing with his own experience and an attempt at seeking an inner peace, rooted in his voice, but, stretching over the generations of military service, and some sacrifice, in his extended family. "Half awake, in the opening chapter, he imagines himself, as "a drone aircraft plying the darkness above my body, flying over my wife as she sleeps beside me…" The night-vision hallucinations that are fed back into Turner's haunting and haunted prose dwell periodically on the warrior code of his childhood in Fresno, California: learning to form a fist in the martial arts dojo his father constructed in their suburban garage, feeling the blade of a machete that his grandfather used to kill a Japanese officer he stumbled over in the jungles of Guam. Turner joined up as soon as he could to prove that, like those men who had created him, he too "was willing and prepared to crawl through the mud and muck any time of day or night, winter spring summer fall you name it, I was prepared to low-crawl with my face down in the nastiest, foulest brackish sludge and sewer the world could offer…" It felt like his fate." - the Guardian. Turner survives and copes, if that is an accurate description, with the ordeal of war, but, has obviously been through the terrors of some form of PTSD and has been significantly helped by his wife, a point he acknowledges in the latter part of the book and extensively in the subsequent afterword. Yet, he retains his humanity for his fellow man, and even the Iraqi people, who no doubt attempted to kill him. He, like all soldiers of all wars, will be haunted by nightmares and flashbacks with memories that will be triggered unexpectedly. This is a survivor's tale and like all such recollections, some memories may be exaggerated and some omitted, but, as I said at the start, war is a dirty business. War is a lose-lose scenario, especially, for participants in the battlefield on both sides of any conflict. However, Brian Turner's triumphant memoir is an at times frightening insight into war for the rest of us, who have been lucky enough, if not blessed, not to have been involved. No doubt, our politicians and war orchestrators will skim over it and claim that there is a bigger and more important picture to be considered. A great read and a great book that will linger in our minds, and because the war is still with us, our thought processes will be stimulated by the nightly newscasts we watch from Iraq and Afghanistan. These reports, however accurate they are, will take on a deeper meaning for any viewer who has read this memoir. Published reviews: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/bo... http://www.washingtonpost.com/enterta... Update 11th January 2015 Published review in New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/boo...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andy Zell

    My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner is a startling and poetic memoir of an Iraq War veteran. The book is divided into short, numbered sections, and it’s not surprising that some of them read like brief poems since Turner has written two well received books of poetry before this memoir. To give an idea of what I’m talking about here’s the closing paragraph of an early section where he describes his time in Bosnia, where he was also deployed: Fires burned in Mostar and Visegrad, Gradacac, My Life as a Foreign Country by Brian Turner is a startling and poetic memoir of an Iraq War veteran. The book is divided into short, numbered sections, and it’s not surprising that some of them read like brief poems since Turner has written two well received books of poetry before this memoir. To give an idea of what I’m talking about here’s the closing paragraph of an early section where he describes his time in Bosnia, where he was also deployed: Fires burned in Mostar and Visegrad, Gradacac, Gorazde and Sarajevo. Season by season, the dead sank deeper into the soil—each enduring the severe and exacting labor of leaves and rain and sun in their compression of mineral and stone, there within the worm-driven kingdom of hunger, phyla of the blind. (32) A later section about a house raid in Iraq begins with “The soldiers enter the house” repeats the phrase like a refrain over and over, each time with a different description of how they enter the house (e.g. “with shouting and curses and muzzle flash” or “with the flag of their nation sewn onto the sleeves of their uniforms”). I had the opportunity to hear Turner give a reading last month, and he chose this passage from the book. It’s the centerpiece to the book, a moving description that humanizes the soldiers bursting into the home as well as the Iraqis who are disrupted and traumatized. The fragmentary nature of the narrative allows Turner to play around with memory and time. Memory often works likes this, brief glimpses of the past disconnected from what came before, a moment captured, but then sometimes intertwined with an image or a person or a feeling to some other moment, leading to another glimpse. One of the themes of the book is the legacy that Turner feels as he tries to explain why he joined the Army. He recounts the war experiences of many relatives, including his father and grandfather, and the bonds that are forged by that experience and how it never leaves a person. In fact, another part of the book explores how anyone can come back from a war zone and try to re-integrate into civilian life. He describes himself as two persons, one Sgt. Turner who, although dead, still watches the other, civilian Brian Turner, from the cameras of a drone. It’s a remarkably potent image of the nature of identity integration and the trauma of war as it is carried out in the 21st century. I began reading the book on Veteran’s Day because I felt that I need to grapple with the experiences of our soldiers and the costs of our country’s decisions to go to war, even when I didn’t agree with the reasons for going to war. Those men and women went on my behalf whether I asked them to or not. Turner’s story is only one soldier’s story, but it’s worth knowing when it’s told this well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    Army Sergeant Brian Turner's chilling memoir pieces together a vivid mosaic of war's traumas -- both as it takes its toll physically and as the horror of its brutality echoes on in the memories of those who escape its grasp. Throughout a series of one hundred more-or-less independent sections, Turner delivers a powerful message in a way that makes it accessible to anyone, whether or not they have personal experiences to draw from. In a favorite passage of mine, Turner details the preparations ma Army Sergeant Brian Turner's chilling memoir pieces together a vivid mosaic of war's traumas -- both as it takes its toll physically and as the horror of its brutality echoes on in the memories of those who escape its grasp. Throughout a series of one hundred more-or-less independent sections, Turner delivers a powerful message in a way that makes it accessible to anyone, whether or not they have personal experiences to draw from. In a favorite passage of mine, Turner details the preparations made for an upcoming raid somewhere in Afghanistan. As soldiers smoke and joke, laying out cardboard cutout models of the village they will soon visit, Turner wonders what is happening there. Though the "target house" couldn't be very far away, it seems to be a world apart from the young Sergeant and the troops he will lead into combat. He then goes on to consider several ways his men could enter the house: kicking in the door, sitting down with cups of chai, and even reading Afghani poetry to the family inside. This seamless blend of the City of Peace and the City of War highlights how far our everyday lives are distanced from the rough men doing violence on our behalf. Each brief section of My Life as a Foreign Country achieves this effect in a different way. Once Turner presents the reader with the different materials from around the United States that go into the making of a single M-16 and its ammunition. Later he juxtaposes the experience of a young prisoner huddled in a cage with the American soldiers who are charged to watch over him. Every time the reader is left to reconcile the different worlds with each other, and his or her own. In this way, reading Turner's memoir gives us a window into his experiences and those he imagines others may have had. More profoundly, however, it allows for an escape from the solipsistic reality that cushions western life: even if we do not know about it, there is still a world apart from our own.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Melody

    As a new faculty member in the English Department at the U.S. Air Force Academy, this book was my inauguration into the literature of war. Recently, writers like Phil Klay and James Fallows have reminded civilians that saying "Thank You For Your Service" is not an adequate substitute for true engagement with soldiers and true civilian engagement with and critique of the military industrial complex. In _My Life as a Foreign Country_, Turner offers a nuanced representation of the experiences of th As a new faculty member in the English Department at the U.S. Air Force Academy, this book was my inauguration into the literature of war. Recently, writers like Phil Klay and James Fallows have reminded civilians that saying "Thank You For Your Service" is not an adequate substitute for true engagement with soldiers and true civilian engagement with and critique of the military industrial complex. In _My Life as a Foreign Country_, Turner offers a nuanced representation of the experiences of the modern American soldier: he is a man who grapples with isolation and the alienation of the body from the soul. He is a man who builds intimacy among is fellow soldiers, and struggles to rebuild relationships in the civilian world he left behind. Throughout the book, he asks us to question the notion of "the enemy," and to see the similarities between "us" and "them." He reminds us that one life always comes at the cost of another. By the end of the book, I was left with a question: how can we, as civilians, identify and accept our role in U.S. military actions around the world? It's a difficult question, but this memoir provides some of the wisdom needed to begin forging an answer.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Sherpa

    Reading in front of an audience, from behind his fighting-position podium, the poet-turned-veteran surges, then retreats, transitioning back and forth between gritty words and pithy, almost light-hearted insights. Brian Turner, who fought as an infantry NCO in the Iraq War, always seems to have a serious glint of good humor in his eyes. He's aiming for something, peering through his optics, and wants you to see it, too. With his much-cited war poems, such as "Here, Bullet" (read it here) and "The Reading in front of an audience, from behind his fighting-position podium, the poet-turned-veteran surges, then retreats, transitioning back and forth between gritty words and pithy, almost light-hearted insights. Brian Turner, who fought as an infantry NCO in the Iraq War, always seems to have a serious glint of good humor in his eyes. He's aiming for something, peering through his optics, and wants you to see it, too. With his much-cited war poems, such as "Here, Bullet" (read it here) and "The Hurt Locker," Turner was one of the first writers to take literary point for his generation of 21st century troops. Through words and deeds, Turner has led the way for other veterans to share their own wars, while encouraging civilians to look at conflict with new eyes. Turner is a force of nature, a learned army of one. Spitting bullets of wisdom, Turner is like the Dalai Lama with a machine gun. Turner is full of surprises. His memoir is one of them. [...] [For full review, visit: http://www.redbullrising.com/2014/09/...]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    There were some really beautiful parts in this book, but there were also a lot of sections that were unnecessarily wordy. It followed a similar style as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried--snippets of memories from a war, pre-war, and post-war, none of which are in any sort of chronological order. However, I prefer Tim O'Brien. I could be alone in this, but I like my war memoirs to have a certain amount of clarity in the writing instead of trying too hard to make something beautiful or poetic There were some really beautiful parts in this book, but there were also a lot of sections that were unnecessarily wordy. It followed a similar style as Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried--snippets of memories from a war, pre-war, and post-war, none of which are in any sort of chronological order. However, I prefer Tim O'Brien. I could be alone in this, but I like my war memoirs to have a certain amount of clarity in the writing instead of trying too hard to make something beautiful or poetic. Definitely worth the read though, if this genre is your jam. I look forward to more Iraq war literature (fiction and non-fiction) in the coming years. Also, the description says he wrote the poem The Hurt Locker, which he did, but that is totally deceiving because it has NO RELATION to the film of the same name.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    Brian Turner's memoir is a journey via stepping-stones through Turner's childhood, his family influences, and his experiences as an Army infantryman in Iraq. His story is informed by visits to sites of many other wars, at home and abroad, and study of those wars. Altogether, these cobblestones fashion a road to the heart of what it means to go to war and come back. This memoir isn't about the events of the war so much as it is about how Turner experienced them and his struggles to find his psych Brian Turner's memoir is a journey via stepping-stones through Turner's childhood, his family influences, and his experiences as an Army infantryman in Iraq. His story is informed by visits to sites of many other wars, at home and abroad, and study of those wars. Altogether, these cobblestones fashion a road to the heart of what it means to go to war and come back. This memoir isn't about the events of the war so much as it is about how Turner experienced them and his struggles to find his psychological way home. Just as Turner's poetry provides insight into the rough beauty and confusion of the military experience in Iraq, his memoir reads with the same sensual lilt. Read this book. Twice.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jerry

    Turner has given us a powerful and lyric masterpiece, and the most surprising war memoir I've ever read. Prose poems create the narrative of Turner's experiences in a tradition of The Iliad and the Odyssey or any of the great poetic epics. Each of the sections can be read on their own and mulled over and then fitted into the overarching story. I realize this might not be for every reader, but I would encourage everyone to read it and then take the time to seriously think about it. The transforma Turner has given us a powerful and lyric masterpiece, and the most surprising war memoir I've ever read. Prose poems create the narrative of Turner's experiences in a tradition of The Iliad and the Odyssey or any of the great poetic epics. Each of the sections can be read on their own and mulled over and then fitted into the overarching story. I realize this might not be for every reader, but I would encourage everyone to read it and then take the time to seriously think about it. The transformations he undergoes and how it is rendered on the page reveals the spirit of a man destroyed and then regained through ritual. He cracks opens the nature of redemption and holds the gem up to the light.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Marro

    I just turned the last page of this memoir an hour ago. The language and power of Brian Turner's 'My Life As a Foreign Country' are still sinking in. There is more to say that I can adequately express right now but I can offer this: Turner has captured the timelessness of war - its reach back through time and into the bones and DNA of the humans who start war and serve it in each country, each generation. He shares images from his own time preparing for Iraq, fighting there, and returning home i I just turned the last page of this memoir an hour ago. The language and power of Brian Turner's 'My Life As a Foreign Country' are still sinking in. There is more to say that I can adequately express right now but I can offer this: Turner has captured the timelessness of war - its reach back through time and into the bones and DNA of the humans who start war and serve it in each country, each generation. He shares images from his own time preparing for Iraq, fighting there, and returning home interspersed with the faces, bodies, ghosts of each and every human touched by the violence. He does all of this is sentences so direct, so sharp, so lovely, you don't feel the cut until you lift your eyes from the page and realize you are bleeding.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Not for everyone this account melds Turner's experience at war with his ancestors who also went to war. It has a dreamlike quality to it and it jumps around all over the place-time, place, reality vs dreams. It has a lot of profound thoughts in it and you could almost consider it a narrative poem. I wasn't surprised by the style and format of this memoir. I'm still trying to figure out whether if he could do it all over again, would he? War is a transformative experience and he is proud of his s Not for everyone this account melds Turner's experience at war with his ancestors who also went to war. It has a dreamlike quality to it and it jumps around all over the place-time, place, reality vs dreams. It has a lot of profound thoughts in it and you could almost consider it a narrative poem. I wasn't surprised by the style and format of this memoir. I'm still trying to figure out whether if he could do it all over again, would he? War is a transformative experience and he is proud of his service but it comes at a price. Turner lays out the price in a magical and mystical journey into his psyche and soul.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Brian Thiem

    An immensely powerful book. Brian Turner is a poet and his language was dense, but the imagery and emotion contained in his words was incredibly rich. Although I prefer memoirs to be written as a story, with an arch and a beginning and end, the author's scenes (or sections) were captivating. I served with the army in Iraq prior to Turner, and he took me back there (for good and bad) through his writing, reminding me of the numerous emotions any soldier in combat experiences. This is not a book o An immensely powerful book. Brian Turner is a poet and his language was dense, but the imagery and emotion contained in his words was incredibly rich. Although I prefer memoirs to be written as a story, with an arch and a beginning and end, the author's scenes (or sections) were captivating. I served with the army in Iraq prior to Turner, and he took me back there (for good and bad) through his writing, reminding me of the numerous emotions any soldier in combat experiences. This is not a book one can speed read through. It's meant to be read in small doses, followed by setting the book aside and reflecting on what one read. Thank you for your service, Sgt. Brian Taylor.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    This is unlikely to be the first war related memoir you read. Maybe not the last. But it will have the more value because you already know what has been said, you know something of the connections born and eroded in war, the pain of going to war and leaving it behind and returning to the world you left. You know much of what can be said about war politically, philosophically, and personally, but you don't yet know what Turner can bring to the conversation. He is thoughtful, incisive, and poetic, This is unlikely to be the first war related memoir you read. Maybe not the last. But it will have the more value because you already know what has been said, you know something of the connections born and eroded in war, the pain of going to war and leaving it behind and returning to the world you left. You know much of what can be said about war politically, philosophically, and personally, but you don't yet know what Turner can bring to the conversation. He is thoughtful, incisive, and poetic, as he is throughout his writing. If my kids aren't asked to read this in college, at least I can ensure that they read it at home.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    What touched me the most in this book was the depiction of war over generations as part of Brian's history--and ultimately all of ours, too. The soulful depth of the writing helped me feel the crushing nature of war as well as the (mostly testosterone-driven) attraction, or as Brian puts it, the "intoxication" and "pathology of it all." It took me a while to get into the rhythms of this non-chronological book with its deeply poetic voice, but I was glad I stayed with it. This man can write. When What touched me the most in this book was the depiction of war over generations as part of Brian's history--and ultimately all of ours, too. The soulful depth of the writing helped me feel the crushing nature of war as well as the (mostly testosterone-driven) attraction, or as Brian puts it, the "intoxication" and "pathology of it all." It took me a while to get into the rhythms of this non-chronological book with its deeply poetic voice, but I was glad I stayed with it. This man can write. When I got to the end, I felt somehow changed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Scott Wiggerman

    A compelling--though fragmentary--read centered on how men deal with war and its aftermath. It contains the same poetic language that Turner uses in his two books of poetry, "Here, Bullet" and "Phantom Noise," but without the concentrated focus on Iraq and the Middle East. Nonetheless, it's a strong, solid book that reveals the conflicts of being a soldier, especially a soldier with a strong poetic consciousness.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anica Wong

    "Maybe it isn't that it's so difficult coming home, but that home isn't a big enough space for all that I must bring to it. America, vast and laid out from one ocean to another, is not a large enough space to contain the war each soldier brings home. And even if it could-it doesn't want to." My very favorite vignette of this book. While I enjoyed most of the fragmented stories, this one sucker punched me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Ryner Jr.

    Short, but not a quick read. If you like his poetry, this provides context for his work. If you're looking for narrative or a novel, this isn't it. The author has published an excerpt which I felt was the strongest part of the book. If you don't feel anything after reading that—move on. Search for “the soldiers enter the house” https://medium.com/@wwnorton/the-sold... Short, but not a quick read. If you like his poetry, this provides context for his work. If you're looking for narrative or a novel, this isn't it. The author has published an excerpt which I felt was the strongest part of the book. If you don't feel anything after reading that—move on. Search for “the soldiers enter the house” https://medium.com/@wwnorton/the-sold...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Uwe Hook

    Turner's memoir in narrative poetry nails a deep dive down into a somber topic: war. Turner's genius manifests in pitting his life against the dramatic scars of his service in the Army's Infantry. Turner talks so much about ghosts and dreams and the lost. But he does so in a way that only cherishes the life of his army fellows. MLFC is a brilliant epic about pursuing life after war and living with a thousand dream spectators who either beckon back to war or a hard quitting.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    A deliberate, almost delirious book - part poetry, part reflection, part historical fallback, part ruminated musing, part telling - of the experience of growing up and becoming in a culture that validates war and the war experience, but struggles to surround those humans sent to war, with the support they need to come back. Powerful and challenging, a text to somberly savour.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Hall

    Is Turner a poet/soldier or soldier/poet? He is simultaneously both and his writing about a soldier's life, whether in combat or dealing with mundane daily details, made for a fascinating and illuminating read. This is highly recommended for reading fans of history, politics, current events, and just plain good writing.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kate Gukeisen

    I literally could not put this book down. Turner's story feels both sharp-focus-documentary and surreal, and so compelling that when I finished the book I felt like I had been holding my breath the whole time I was reading. Turner's language is clear and everyday; his writing is both accessible and lyrical; and, "My Life as a Foreign Country" is absolutely recommended reading.

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