I admit when I heard this won the National Book Award, I wondered whether the fact that Klay was an actual Marine had had an undue influence on the critics. Now that I’ve actually read the collection, I know that my initial reaction was completely misguided. Though I’ve never understood the standard for such awards, I do think this is a stunning collection of understated and incredibly powerful stories – stories about first kills, stories about returning home from war, stories about stories. I appreciate the way Klay approaches the idea of short story, as small moments rather than grand operas some other authors make them. I also thought Klay was adept at exploring the dichotomy of who was in battle and who stayed at home and who was in battle and who worked in an office. He maintains this distance. There is vocabulary here, often decently long stretches of it, that reads as a foreign language to those of unacquainted with the terminology of battle. We are, Klay wants to remind us, firmly on the outside. A great collection. I can’t wait to read whatever comes next from him.

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