Friday, February 22, 2008
Shooting the Moon
Shooting the Moon
Frances O’Roark Dowell
Jamie Dexter is an Army brat. Her father is a Colonel, and she refers to him as such. Jamie is thrilled when her brother, T. J., joins the Army – she thinks it’s wonderful that he will soon be going to Vietnam and serving his country. She’s mystified when her dad is not excited and doesn’t understand why he would try to talk his son out of enlisting.
T. J. does go to Vietnam as a medic and Jamie starts volunteering at the rec center on base, where she gets to know a soldier, Private Hollister, who is assigned to work at the center and who also plays a mean hand of gin rummy. Soon T. J. starts sending letters home to his parents – not very detailed letters, just complaining about the food and talking about how nice the nurses were. He doesn’t write Jamie; instead he sends her a roll of film and asks her to develop it. Jamie doesn’t have any idea how to develop film, but the rec center has a dark lab, and a soldier shows her how. The first roll of film contains pretty innocuous pictures, but as T.J. sends more rolls, the pictures become darker, full of wounded soldiers missing arms and legs. Jamie doesn’t show her parents the pictures of the wounded soldiers; she chooses instead to share pictures of plants and soldiers sitting around drinking beer. At first she doesn’t understand the purpose of the pictures “As he trying to scare me? Or was he just trying to tell me that war wasn’t anything like the way we’d dreamed it, playing with our little green Army men under the trees?” (p. 115)
Shooting the Moon is not a long book, but it sure does pack a punch in its few pages. At a time when many people are questioning our involvement in Iraq, a book that looks at Vietnam is always relevant. Dowell’s writing is beautiful – there are many passages I could have quoted – and to a certain degree Jamie reminded me of Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird and anything that reminds me of that book is automatically wonderful. It will be interesting to see what type of attention Shooting the Moon will garner from award committees. It’s the first book I’ve read with a copyright date of 2008, and I think we’ve had an excellent start to the year