May 2017

RHC 2017: <em>American War</em> by Omar El Akkad

RHC 2017: American War by Omar El Akkad

This post is part of a series in which I describe the twenty-four books I read in 2017 for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge

Task: Read a book by debut novelist.

Alternatives: Read a book about war. Read a book by an immigrant. 

I read American War right around the time that I returned to work after maternity leave. If you’ve never returned to full time employment after a sudden and total immersion on Planet Baby, let me tell you – hell, I don’t even know what to tell you. It was hard. Hard in ways I didn’t understand, couldn’t have anticipated, and had a rough time coping with. The smallbear had started sleeping through the night right before I went back, bless her, but the sleep debt I had racked up during the past three months had started sending goons with baseball bats to my front door, and between the intense exhaustion and the abject lack of baby at work, I was stumbling around barely conscious and frantic to prove to my coworkers that I was still somewhat competent (against all odds, this was one of the most productive periods of work I’ve ever had). Being suddenly separated from this creature that had been living inside my body for months and then in whose constant company I’d been for twenty-four hours a day felt like getting thrown into ice water. I didn’t do much but work, pump, and cry for those first few weeks back. And I WANTED to go back to work, mind you.

[Statement of the obvious: three months isn’t enough. And I was so lucky to have that much in this terrible country.]

That has absolutely nothing to do with this book, which I read a handful of paragraphs at a time over about a month. Readers have to meet books halfway, and this book deserved better than I was able to give. I did make it all the way through and I do have opinions about it. I just feel like I missed out on the true readery experience of the thing and like I’m working with a remembered Wikipedia entry instead. With that said, here’s what I thought about it.



My cat died yesterday.

More specifically, I had my cat’s life ended for her yesterday. I slept in the guest room the night before last where I’d been camped out for baby duty, and a thump woke me up at 2:00 am. My little orange cat Ipso had tried to jump up on the bed and had missed. Then I watched her try to walk to her litter box and she fell over. This checked a box in the worst decision making tree I’ve ever had to design.

Ipso was diagnosed with kidney failure three and a half years ago. At the time, we were told she had weeks to months. That turned out to be years – three good years, where she felt fine and acted like herself. But she had been fading for the past few weeks, and I’d been trying hard to pretend like it wasn’t happening.

I picked her up and brought her into bed with me. She stretched her chin out over my wrist and started purring while I scratched her head. We talked about it. I made the decision. She curled up next to me and I stayed up with her for the rest of the night.

I woke Chris up and told him I thought we needed to let Ipso go. He called a local mobile vet, who wouldn’t be able to get to our house until noon or so. Ipso hated going to the stationary vet’s office and I couldn’t stand the thought of her last moments being in a place that caused her so much fear and stress. So we waited.