Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Jamie Dexter is your typical Army brat. Loves her family, loves her country, and loves the United States Army. She'd go to Vietnam along with her brother if the Army suddenly allowed twelve-almost-thirteen-year-olds to enlist. She's Army through and through. Combat ready.

When her brother announces that he's enlisted, her father’s emotions are not what Jamie expects. Colonel Dexter had medical school in mind for TJ and, to Jamie's confusion, encourages TJ to opt out of his enlistment and continue on his path to the University of Georgia. Why would a man who loves the United States Army just a bit less than his own family discourage his son from following in his own Army footprints? (Maybe the answer is within the question.) While Mom stays typically quiet, Jamie supports TJ completely.

TJ has a love of photography, especially the moon. He has a photographer's eye, the ability to tell stories in pictures, a talent that even a younger sister like Jamie can recognize. When the first letter arrives from Vietnam, it includes a long (boring, in Jamie's opinion) letter and a canister of film for Jamie to develop.

As more and more film arrives, TJ's story unfolds. Over time the photos change from pictures of huts and buddies drinking beer to helicopters and severely injured soldiers. Jamie begins to realize the truth of war, reevaluate her blind support for the war, and understand her father's hesitancy to support his son.

An interesting subplot involves Jamie's card partner at the rec center, Private Hollister, and whether he will be reassigned to Vietnam, a decision that falls to Jamie's father. Predictably, TJ is reported MIA, just as Private Hollister is no longer working in the rec center.

Shooting the Moon isn't a bad book, but I couldn't get past the feeling that I'd read it before. Other than the interesting photography thread and the photos of the moon, this reads as your typical someone-goes-off-to-war story. I do like the ending, not as tightly tied up as some like, and certainly not at dismal as it could have been.

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