As usual, Krakauer has done massive research on Pat Tillman’s entire life as well as the wars against the terrorists after September 11, 2001.
Tillman was an unusual person and a gifted athlete. Partly his California upbringing and partly the self-possessed person he was, Tillman danced to the beat of his own drummer. Case in point, of course, he gave up a $3.6 million dollar contract with the NFL in order to enlist in the army.
Tillman grew up in a family of sports-oriented boys in California. As a younger lad, he was small, so he made up for his size with sheer determination and practice. When he enjoyed a growth spurt in high school, he was already positioned to be a star football player. He played in college for Arizona State University where he had a scholarhip, then for the Arizona Cardinals when he joined the NFL. Along the way, he met the love of his life, Marie, to whom he was faithful in spite of the fact of his celebrity. She provided the steady balance to his intensity.
One disturbing part of the story is the beating Tillman forced on a high school student whom Pat mistakenly thought had roughed up one of his high school football buddies. Fortunately for Pat, a lenient judge reduced the savage beating to a misdemeanor so Tillman would not lose the crucial scholarship to Arizona State.
Most disturbing, however, was the chaotic mess that was the US Army in Afghanistan. Krakauer indicts the Bush Administration as well as the US military leaders for the senseless wars these young soldiers had to endure. Added to that is the unforgivable sham of Tillman’s death which the Bush administration used to promote their own agenda.
In reality, the tragic end for Tillman came when he was killed by his own comrades, the same soldiers he had climbed up a ridge in the mountains of Afghanistan to protect. The senselessness and waste that resulted from the stupid miscommunications of the army is the sad theme that runs through the last part of the book.
Krakauer opens the different parts of the book with meaningful quotes from classical writers like Homer (the title is from a quote in Homer’s Iliad) and Aeschylus. He also includes extensive notes on each chapter as well as an index. For the sometimes dense and thus confusing areas of the book, these additions are helpful.
For the general reader, though, Krakauer’s account of Pat Tillman’s driven life is the clearest and most interesting. His detailed expose of the Bush team and army leaders can lose even a careful reader, as can his step by step depiction of all the military operations and strategies.
Pat Tillman and his family make up the best parts of this book.
That Tillman was a gifted and fascinating man makes his loss ever more devastating. To borrow this book.
My ocean physicist husband and I raised two wonderful sons, my proudest accomplishment. For many years I taught writing at a university, my job of a lifetime, and worked as a freelance writer for local publications. I am an ocean girl, sometimes profane, who loves animals, reading, and creative projects. I am curious about nearly everything. Loyal and caring, I make a good friend.