Roxana Robinson, 2013
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Giving voice to one of the most crucial issues of our time, the acclaimed novelist Roxana Robinson has created a portrait of the walking wounded among America’s veterans—soldiers who have no physical scars but who cannot overcome the emotional traumas of Operation Iraqi Freedom and its otherworldly horrors.
In Sparta, Conrad Farrell’s family has no military heritage, but as a classics major at Williams College, Conrad is drawn to the Marine Corps ethic: “Semper Fidelis” came straight from the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta, where every citizen doubled as a full-time soldier. After college, Conrad joins the Marines and is deployed to Iraq at the height of U.S. attempts to democratize a nation overrun by brutal factions.
Returning home to New York’s Westchester County after four years of honorable service, Conrad appears to be in perfect shape: he hasn’t been shot, he was never wounded by an IED, and he sticks to a tough workout routine. As strong as he is, it’s soon apparent that the transition from war to peace may destroy him.
As he attempts to reconnect with the people and places he once loved, he is haunted by psychological demons. The survival tactics that brought him home safely are now his worst enemy, winding his psyche into a taut knot of fear and guilt. Picturing dangers and destruction at every turn while questioning the value of his mission in Iraq, he tries to navigate a homeland that no longer feels like home to him.
He longs for help—from his family, his girlfriend, his fellow troops, the VA—but each attempt to reach out ends disastrously. Capturing the nuances of the unique estrangement that modern soldiers face as they attempt to rejoin the society they’ve fought for, Sparta is a powerful testament to the moral consequences of war, for civilians and soldiers alike. (From the publisher.)
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