cover image The Gift of Valor: A War Story

The Gift of Valor: A War Story

Michael M. Phillips. Random House Audio, $21.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7393-1966-6

Lloyd's reading of Phillips' you-are-there tale of an American soldier in Iraq is smooth but distant, as if emerging from an overstuffed armchair in a wood-paneled library rather than from the heat and confusion of battle. Phillips, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, spent his time in Iraq following one typical soldier-Corporal Jason Dunham, a 22-year-old Marine from upstate New York. Phillips eschews the big picture for a series of small ones-details about Dunham's life up to joining the military, Marine patrols in newly occupied Iraqi cities, and soldiers' off-duty routines. Dunham and his group of Marines face the almost constant threat of death and the confusion of a complex foreign country, but Lloyd's voice, polished to a fine glow, lacks the emotional heft necessary to convey the concoction, part fear and part anticipation, that is every soldier's daily brew. Instead, Phillips' book is given the dulcet tones of a morning-television host, soothing and calming where it should be raw, gaping, and uninhibited. Lloyd's reading sells the book short, having stripped it of the immediacy that was its most crucial attribute.