I just joined goodbooks.com and sharing my first book review.
Early one Saturday morning when I was ten one of my dad's parishioners rode his bicycle with his infant son over for breakfast. Apparently I was the only one awake, answering the door in my jammies with sleep still in my eyes, and we talked a good while, watching his son play. I kinda remember the morning, or more accurately, I remember the wide front porch, the part of our circular gravel drive where he undoubtedly parked his bike and the way the early morning sun cast gold and silver light through the trees. The man's name was Dennis then, 10 years older, and mostly I remember he hung out at our house a lot for awhile and gave me Stevie Wonder's InnerVisions album (which I still think is brilliant).
Forty years later my mom forwarded an out-of-the-blue email my parents received from that same man, renamed Jon and the author of this book. He'd found my folks online, and in the course of several emails he described a breathless, jaw-dropping, sometimes horrifying, yet always magically inspiring series of decades. And he thanked my parents for rescuing him all those years ago from a certain kind of death (whether literal or figurative I'm still not sure).
We are friends now, Jon and I. I thanked him for offering a richer glimpse of my young parents, when I was too little to see them as real people. And for the Stevie Wonder album. He replied with the memory of our conversation on that porch. We keep up with each other, although as a quiet, ordinary, unknown writer I think I get more benefit from his encouragement than he gets from me. He and his wife share a lovely life beneath an ancient belltower in a peaceful European city. His novel, The Watchers, is due out shortly, and he is busy writing its sequel.
I cannot read more than a few pages of War Junkie without beginning to cry and returning it to my bedside table untouched for many weeks. This is the story of global madness. Jon opens with his own breakdown, witness to one too many tragedies, and in the self-deprecating self-awareness only a saint could posses, he softens the reader's journey through unspeakable horrors by allowing us to ride along more safely in his story as an addict to such circumstances.
But don't be fooled. He describes his own descent, but he illuminates the world's insanity. As a result, he may very well be the sanest and most courageous person I know, for he experienced this madness without filters, living events, perpetrators, victims and himself in stark real-time. Then he wrote about it. And finally, recognizing that ultimately all aspects of war are merely dangerous and destructive games, he bravely walked away. He allowed his own being, maybe his own soul, to embody this madness long enough to experience and express its true darkness. And now having claimed a different life, he's turning that darkness into light.