Hot Fudge Sundaes for Breakfast by Kevin McConaghy
In this autobiographical novel, Staff Sergeant Kevin McConaghy has recently returned from a sixteen-month-long tour of duty in Iraq, but transitioning from soldier back to civilian is proving to be more difficult than Kevin’s friends and family and coworkers realize. Suffering from PTSD, Kevin seeks therapy with a psychiatrist, though the sessions are anything but helpful and only leave him feeling more upset. Kevin now feels a division between himself and his fellow Americans that makes every day a battle, every conversation a struggle. In a narrative that jumps between life in the United States and the war overseas, readers will be given a perspective on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East that likely differs from what one often sees on TV or reads in the newspaper.
This is the type of book that is difficult to read – but, nevertheless, it is necessary that we do read it. So often in talks about war, we lack personal accounts from the men and women who served overseas. We read about large-scale battles, but rarely about the very real effects of war on an individual’s mind and psychological well-being. Here, the book’s strongest moments occur when Kevin holds a mirror up to society, showing us what it’s like to exist on the other side of things, as in a particularly powerful scene where he steps off a plane at the airport and is greeted by numerous travelers who only wish to express their gratitude for his service but, in doing so, fail to acknowledge how the person they are thanking might feel about that. Kevin is so overwhelmed by the endlessly repeated thank yous that he pretends to have a phone conversation with his mother to avoid further interruption. Though at times it is hard to stomach, Hot Fudge Sundaes for Breakfast is an unerringly honest documentation of one soldier’s experiences and a grim discussion of both the harsh realities of war and the fragile, fool-hardy hubris of a young and powerful nation.
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