You don’t get it. I’d love to do this – what you say. Change. I can’t. Something’s not working. All you do is tear me apart. I’d like to be back here with you all, but I’m not. You don’t get it. I’m not here. I’m not home. I’m still there.
Conrad has returned from a second deployment to Iraq and left the
Marines. He is now at home in Katonah, New York, and adjusting to civilian life
in the US is not, at this point, possible for him. He suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, but PTSD is too glib a term for his experience.
Roxana Robinson’s Sparta is as good a novel about the problems of men (and women) returning from war, any war, as you will find. Beautifully written, perceptive, with skilled characterization, the novel isn’t easy to read but it is worth reading.
The story begins on an aircraft returning men to the US from Iraq. The trip is a bridge from there to here. But Conrad realizes he has sand in his lungs, dust that forms the very soil of the battleground that he is bringing back with him.
Conrad joined up after studying the classics at Williams College, inspired by the heroism of Sparta. He didn’t look ahead to the downfall of Sparta as its men became hollow from the experiences of battle.
And now that his military experience is over, Conrad, too, is hollow. He doesn’t know how to go back to the man he was before he left for war and he is unable to get the help he needs from the veteran’s hospital and doctors purportedly available, but in fact so strained for resources that they are of no real help at all.
A powerful book, beautifully written, with a meaningful message.