cover image The Bodies in Person: An Account of Civilian Casualties in American Wars

The Bodies in Person: An Account of Civilian Casualties in American Wars

Nick McDonnell. Blue Rider, $28 (352p) ISBN 978-0-73521-157-5

Political theorist and novelist McDonell (Twelve) brings investigative research and a strong narrative voice to this harrowing search for an accurate understanding of civilian casualties in the United States’ recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Receiving limited access to U.S. personnel, McDonell seeks out firsthand accounts of military actions that resulted in noncombatant injury or death. Rather than relying on a linear narrative, he creates a collage of chaos, violence, and cold calculation: using a novelist’s eye for character and detail, he introduces readers to a wide variety of Iraqis and Afghans, from the young veterans of Iraq’s civil defense staff to emergency room doctors treating the injured and a con man whose brother was shot while working on American base. The vivid reporting of the unrecorded lives of those killed and harmed is moving, and the discussions with American officials are revealing. Given the vast cast of characters and the jumps between different war zones, the narrative can be difficult to follow, but the overall power of the work is undeniable. By introducing the human stories behind anonymous and apparently often inaccurate casualty reporting, McDonnell casts a much-needed light on a significant and too often downplayed aspect of war. (Sept.)