By Medha Setia | Opening Doorz Editorial | July 08, 2022
Book Review: American Sniper
Author: Chris Kyle
The Essence: American Sniper co-authored by Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice is an amazing written account of frontline combat, filled with plenty of action and technical details. The gripping and unforgettable battlefield experiences should appeal to all military buffs.
American Sniper Book Review
With more than 250 confirmed kills in Iraq, honored with two silver stars and named the al-shaitan (the devil) by his enemies, Chris Kyle may be the “most lethal” sniper in the history of the United States. American Sniper, a memoir, narrators his journey from a rowdy Texas boy to becoming a US Navy Seal serving four deployments in Iraq.
For me, American Sniper is the most intriguing military memoir I have ever read. The book might seem similar to the other military memoirs from a literary perspective. The training, deployment, and sacrifice are all the same. This autobiography, however, is all about the voice and passion that drives him to choose this career. It is also about what he loses in his life as he pursues his dreams.
Kyle isn’t a very sympathetic character and at many times during the read, it’s hard to like him. He is strangely dichotomous. At the beginning of the book, he ranks his obligations in the order of “God, Country, and family”. Yet, his views on Islam and the war-ravaged Iraq are extremely myopic and polar.
The man, the mark, the mission
His actions contradict his values and despite placing emphasis on the value of human life and God, Kyle routinely kills insurgents without any remorse. He describes his participation in numerous battles, such as the protracted struggles of Ramadi and Fallujah, and believes that elite professionals like him contribute to the stability in Iraq. “It took violence of action to create a situation where there could be peace,” he writes.
The main highlights of this narrative are the sinister accounts of Kyle’s violent battle all over Iraq. One of them is mentioned in the very first chapter titled ‘Evil in the crosshairs’ which involves him shooting a female insurgent. He justifies himself by saying that she was blinded by hatred against the Americans and could not see the fact that she could have injured so many people, including her child. According to him, he is a “good guy” and they are the “bad guys”, and there is nothing more to it.
By his admission, he lacked interest in politics and the high-level reasoning behind the Iraq war. His view is blunt and simplistic and represents the views of the people on the ground who fight the war unpossessed by political correctness. Kyle loves his job and believes that if he isn’t in the thick of it, he wasn’t doing his job well. He even notes that he is a ‘superman’ when he is in the middle of combat believing that he is invincible.
Family life takes a beating
The voice of Taya, Chris’s wife also deserves attention. The narrative is strategically spread with several interview-style accounts of Taya, who provides a counterpoint narrative of the surreal life of difficulty the soldier’s loved ones are subjected to. She reminisces about the night they first met at the bar and how their life progressed. She talks about how she loved and despised him at the same time. She recalls various instances when she felt that she was losing value in his life: “Little by little, I realized I wasn’t the most important thing in his life. The words were there, but he didn’t mean it,” she says.
Later, she confides that her marriage had reached a point of crisis where she tried to convince Chris to not reenlist and that he has fulfilled this obligation towards his country. She also urged him that it was time to look out for his own family. “In the beginning, I believed he loves me more than anything. Slowly the SEAL Teams started to become his first love.”
Kyle chooses country over family
The war is more important to Kyle, and this led him to be largely absent during the early years of his children’s lives. This is probably the reason that this memoir is very different from other popular war autobiographies. American Sniper allows the reader to look at the situation from the point of view of his family and how they thought of him as a person. It may not be what Kyle and his co-authors (Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice) intended, but the story comes out mainly as a struggle of a person who faces a dilemma and ultimately chooses his country over his family.
American Sniper is a gripping account of frontline combat, filled with plenty of action and technical details. The gripping and unforgettable battlefield experiences should appeal to all military buffs.
Footnote Source Wikipedia: Chris Kyle was honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 2009, and published his bestselling autobiography, American Sniper, in 2012. An eponymous film adaptation of Kyle’s book, directed by Clint Eastwood, and starring Bradley Cooper as Kyle, was released two years later. In 2013, Kyle was murdered by Eddie Ray Routh at the Rough Creek Lodge shooting range near Chalk Mountain, Texas. Routh, a former Marine with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.
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