Exactly 49 pages into this remarkable novel, I set it in my lap and thought, “(Expletive), this guy is good.” I wrote those words in the margin. And a few pages later I took a photo of the book and tweeted it, along with the same expletive and sentiment, before rejoining Billy Lynn and his fellow Bravo squad mates during one day of their bizarre Victory Tour, set mostly during a Thanksgiving Day football game at Texas Stadium.
Billy & Co. have become heroes thanks to an embedded Fox News crew’s footage of their firefight against Iraqi insurgents. Incongruously, they’re now being wooed by Hollywood producers, falling for Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, and sharing a stage at halftime with Beyonce. Guzzling Jack and Cokes and scuffling with fans, the Bravos are conflicted soldiers, and reluctant heroes. “Okay, so maybe they aren’t the greatest generation,” writes debut author (!) Ben Fountain, who manages a sly feat: giving us a maddening and believable cast of diverse characters who make us feel what it must be like to go to--and return from--war. Veering from euphoria to dread to hope, Billy Lynn is a brilliantly crafted and propulsive story that feels real and true. With fierce and fearless writing, Fountain is a writer worth every expletive and tweet about to come his way.
It also says a lot that our editors selected Billy Lynn ahead of beautiful new novels from two masters, John Irving and Toni Morrison; a Georgetown professor's story of climbing the world's highest peaks and surfing every ocean, only to finally wonder, why?; unexpectedly useful advice from Augusten Burroughs; and the Shakespearean fourth installment in Robert Caro’s epic biography of Lyndon B. Johnson.
Rounding out our top 10 Best Books of the Month for May:
- In One Person, by John Irving
- Home, by Toni Morrison
- The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert A. Caro
- An Uncommon Education, by Elizabeth Percer
- To the Last Breath: A Memoir of Going to Extremes, by Francis Slakey
- This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike, by Augusten Burroughs
- Trapeze, by Simon Mawer
- Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, by Steve Coll
- I Suck at Girls, by Justin Halpern