Flashes of War by Katey Schultz is a surprisingly good book. I say this even though the author is a friend (we met a couple of years ago at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts). I heard her read from the book, and I remember being impressed by what I heard. And yet, my expectations for this book were low–Schultz isn’t a veteran and hasn’t been to Iraq or Afghanistan, so how credible could she make these war stories.
As it turns out, very credible. Although I don’t have first-hand war experience, I have certainly read a lot of war stories and these stories absolutely rang true for me. And one thing that I loved about this collection is that the stories are so varied. The book begins with a flash fiction from the point of view of an American soldier in Afghanistan. Then one from the point of view of an Afghan woman. Then a soldier back home on leave. Then an Afghan mother in Kabul. Then a soldier in Iraq. Then an Iraqi family. Because these are war stories, there are some tragedies among them, and these can be painful to read. But there is some hopefulness, too. There’s a suggestion that some wounds do heal.
Another appealing facet of the book is the variation in the length of the stories. Although the title suggests “flash fiction,” several of the stories are longer, which makes a nice counterpoint with the very short stories. One of my favorite longer stories is “Deuce Out” about a young woman who graduates from high school and immediately enlists in order to follow in the footsteps of her older brother. It’s not hard to see what’s going on in this young woman’s mind. Another favorite is “The Ghost of Sanchez” in which a soldier witnesses the death of Sanchez, and then, perhaps because he wasn’t able to retrieve the body immediately, is forced to deal with the ghost of Sanchez. That must happen a lot.
The book is published by Apprentice House, a small press affiliated with Loyola University of Maryland in Baltimore. Visit the author’s website: Katey Schultz.