Saturday, April 19, 2014

Review: "On Two Fronts" by Adam Fenner and Lance Taubold

Being a Marine Corps veteran, I am drawn to books about combat experiences and military history. I jumped at the chance to review "On Two Fronts" by Adam Fenner and Lance Taubold through NetGalley. It is an account of a combat deployment from the perspective of not just the soldier (Adam Fenner,  Army National Guard) but also the best friend back home (Lance). They tackle their emotions and experiences through a back-and-forth of emails and writings in chronological order, from the moment Adam finds out his unit is being activated to his homecoming.
I wanted desperately for the focus to be the effects of the deployment not only on the servicemember but also on the loved one. Instead, Lance's writing seemed like an effort for it to be an expression of his feelings towards Adam and his unrequited love. It is force-fed to the reader constantly. What should have been a unique and needed account of the two sides to a combat deployment is overshadowed with Lance's obvious lust for and infatuation with Adam. The fit Lance throws when Adam wants to invite his girlfriend to his going-away party, his constant reference to 'Adam returning home to me', the sexual nuances...all made me raise an eyebrow after Lance revealed that he is married. I cringed at the thought of Lance's husband, Richie, reading such a public announcement of Lance's feelings for another man. At one point, Lance even confesses that he is in love with two people, Adam and Richie. Being married, I had a hard time reading this and not feeling unease.
Adam's writing teeters on the precipice of being excellent. There were parts where I thought that his writing alone would have made a great first-person account of his time overseas. As someone who has been deployed and experienced foot patrols out of remote COPs in Afghanistan, I often was taken back to the experiences, sights, and smells of a combat tour.  There are moments of stark realism and unveilings of life at outposts as it truly is. He is inconsistent, though, in his mature and thought-provoking depictions, vacillating between that and the immature need to constantly remind the reader of how much he enjoys female company, or even self-enjoyment when women are not available. I wish the book spent more time on the actual deployment and time in-country, rather than so much on the time before. His accounts of his time in Afghanistan is when his writing truly shines and it seems he is much more in his element then.
I didn't care for the asides, either. One would write something and the other would jump in and make a comment on the writing. I understand where they wanted to go with that, but I think they missed the mark, especially when some of the asides were simple 'Ugh's.
In the end, I had to fight the urge to put the book down before finishing it and ended up skimming through many parts. I felt like a voyeur into a relationship that left me confused and disoriented, and one I wanted to no longer peek in on.

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About Me

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I first joined the Marine Corps in February of 1999. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for three years and in Okinawa for one. I left active duty in 2003 and joined the Reserves that year. I had my first daughter in 2005, and moved from California to Massachusetts in 2006. I left the Marine Corps at that time, and had my second daughter in 2007. I reenlisted in the Corps in September of 2008 and went Active in 2009. I'm currently stationed back in California, loving the weather and the life!