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Just returning from a year in Iraq, about to be reunited with his family, it would seem as if Michael Anthony's life is going to return to normal. Unfortunately, however much his time in Iraq messed with his mind, returning has messed it up even more. Stuck inside are memories of bad soldiers being promoted, good soldiers dying, and good people screwing up. As these memories swirl inside his head, he begins to wonder if there is any point in living. He tries to forget through drinking and drugs; he tries to find fulfillment through women. As his life keeps spiraling downhill, he makes a deal with himself that he will kill himself in three months if he cannot get his life back together. This struggle, shared by veterans throughout the United States, creates an unforgettable story about life after the war.
While reading Civilianized, I had to continually remind myself that it was a true story. As Michael struggled with depression, as he searched for fullfilment in all the wrong places, everything seemed so foreign to me - that's the whole point of the book. So many people don't see what is really happening to our veterans. They think that they are heros, celebrated by society and living perfectly normal lives after the war. This book opened my eyes to the harsh reality that so many of them are facing every day.
Because this was a memoir, it seemed to connect with me while I was reading it. Although I had never gone through those experiences, I could feel for Michael as if I were his friend. I found myself hoping for everything to go well for him and sighing when they didn't. This book is so powerful because of the writing style. Michael Anthony is not afraid to be crude, to say things that might make the reader uncomfortable. He is not doing this just because he can; he is doing it because that is how things actually are, and writing it any differently would downplay how horrible his life really was.
Although this was a rather short read, there was a lot written that stuck with me. There were memorable characters, page turning sections that kept me up late so I could find out what happened, and a powerful real world ending. All of this combined made this one of the, if not the single book that left me thinking afterwords. I was not just thinking, Wow, those themes were really good, or What would I have done in that character's situation? but rather What can I do, in the real world, to actually make a difference? Because of that, I think this is an important book for people to read. They need to understand the plight of so many veterans after the war, and this book is a wonderful place to start.
If you want to read this book, you should be ready for a large amount of swear words, sexual inuendos, drugs, and other somewhat alarming things. Sometimes the story left me wanting more. There were parts of the book didn't seem completely wrapped up and then it jumped to another section. While this happened every once in a while, the story as a whole was well written and easy to follow. Overall, the reason I really liked this book was because it was not watered down. It gave a (presumably) accurate picture of Michael Anthony's life and was written in a way that opens the reader's eyes to real problems in the real world, problems that could be better addressed if more people read books like this.