cover image End of Active Service

End of Active Service

Matt Young. Bloomsbury, $28.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-63973-279-1

Iraq War veteran Young (Eat the Apple, a memoir) explores in his artful and piercing debut novel the challenges of returning from combat to civilian life. Former Marine Corps lance corporal Dean Pusey, 23, is back in his hometown of Richfield, Ind., after multiple deployments to Iraq, beginning when he enlisted at 18 in 2006. He moves in with his adoptive mother and pacifist stepfather, gets a job loading trucks for UPS, and drinks with his childhood best friend. At a bar, he meets a young woman named Max and the two stumble into a relationship. All the while, Dean harshly judges the complacency and corpulence of his civilian neighbors, struggles with terrible memories of the war, and enlists the ghost of his deceased brother-in-arms Israel Ruiz, who died after returning home, in imaginary combat drills. Dean is drawn to Max because she’s the only person who treats him like he isn’t broken, but when she becomes pregnant, he struggles to see himself as a father. Young takes readers deep inside his protagonist’s tortured mind to show what PTSD feels like and how, for Dean, “Most every story is a war story.” The result is an essential addition to the literature of war. Agent: Chris Clemans, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (June)