three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
43-Nov-Dec-2009
By: 
Jon Krakauer
user_rating: 
0

The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

A-Where Men Win GloryAfter the phenomenal success of his true-life epics Into the Wild and Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer has become the go-to writer for adrenaline junkies and adventure readers alike. Where Men Win Glory details Pat Tillman’s inspiring, tragic "odyssey."

The Topic: The image of Pat Tillman, a serious young man with chiseled features and intense, determined eyes, became a symbol of the War on Terror after the football-star-turned-soldier was killed by friendly fire while on patrol in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Surprisingly, Tillman had given up a multimillion-dollar contract with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers in June 2002, a decision he made, along with his brother Kevin, after the events of 9/11. Drawing on the details of Tillman’s life—family and football, to be sure, but also a keen intellectualism that influenced all his decisions—Krakauer honors the life of an American hero and scrutinizes the cloak of secrecy leading to the cover-up of the truth about Tillman’s death.
Doubleday. 383 pages. $27.95. ISBN: 9780385522267

Los Angeles Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Among the many shadows Jon Krakauer illuminates in his compelling and dispiriting book, Where Men Win Glory, is the commonness of fratricide in high-tech warfare. … Krakauer—whose forensic studies of the Emersonian Man in books such as Into Thin Air and Into the Wild yield so much insight—has turned in a beautiful bit of reporting, documenting Tillman’s life with journals and interviews with those close to him." Dan Neil

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"The outline of Tillman’s story is well-known, but the details Krakauer tallies, based on reporting trips to Afghanistan and interviews with many of the soldiers who participated in the fratricidal firefight that killed Tillman, give this story the weight it deserves. … Krakauer has made sure that this shameful episode will not fade into obscurity and that Pat Tillman will be remembered for the man he truly was—and not as the faux symbol of a failed policy." Fran Arrieta-Walden

Denver Post 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Krakauer tells Tillman’s story without journalistic remove. … It isn’t easy to see how a man with a successful NFL career in front of him could step away from it to enter the war, but Krakauer builds his foundation and the decision becomes understandable and admirable." Robin Vidimos

San Francisco Chronicle 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Until Page 274, when Krakauer begins presenting the details of Tillman’s death, the text covers lots of familiar ground, repeats the cornerstones of Tillman’s mostly exemplary character way too often, and—while well written at the sentence and paragraph levels—is structured awkwardly. … After Page 274, the narrative is far more focused—on the craven coverup of the friendly fire death and the various attempts to expose the coverup." Steve Weinberg

USA Today 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Seeking events and decisions that led Tillman into battle, Krakauer … inserts cogently crafted chapters on Afghanistan’s modern war-torn history, the rise of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the U.S. response to 9/11 and the war in Iraq. … Krakauer explores some threads that he never convincingly connects to influencing Tillman—from the large Afghan community in the Bay Area, where Tillman grew up, to the controversial outcome of the 2000 Bush-Gore presidential election." Don Oldenburg

Boston Globe 3 of 5 Stars
"Krakauer’s book is … an exhaustive examination of America’s political and military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. … We could do with fewer reminders of the young football star’s robust masculinity or his alpha-male, superior-warrior status." John Dufresne

Washington Post 2 of 5 Stars
"[Krakauer’s] book falls flat—not least because he is more eager to launch an inquisition into the crimes of the Bush administration than to explore this single extraordinary life. … This is most unfortunate because the parts of the book where Krakauer does tell Tillman’s story play to the author’s strengths." Andrew Exum

NY Times Book Review 1.5 of 5 Stars
"The biggest problem with Where Men Win Glory is that nearly all the drama and import—Tillman’s death and the cover-up—are saved for the last hundred pages. … Unfortunately, too many of the details of Tillman’s life recounted here are mostly banal and inconsequential." Dexter Filkins

Critical Summary

Krakauer’s cachet in the publishing industry is such that, one imagines, he can pick and choose his projects. With Where Men Win Glory, the author’s affinity for his subject and disdain for Tillman’s pointless death are clear. Still, after Tillman’s mother last year published Boots on the Ground by Dusk, her own account of her son’s life and death, it’s reasonable to wonder what’s left to say. Krakauer generally rises to the challenge, writing well and passionately, even if the book often—and sometimes jarringly—veers into Washington politics and offers irrelevant details about Tillman’s life. But through hands-on research and a host of interviews, the author does justice to Tillman’s memory and his death, "a function of his stubborn idealism—his insistence on trying to do the right thing."