KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Review: 552 words [R]

Flashes of War: Short Stories by Katey Schultz

Reviewed by Duff Brenna
Apprentice House

Cover of Flashes of War By Katey Schultz
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2013 IndieFab Book of the Year Award, Foreword Reviews

Photo of MWSA Medal
2013 Gold Medal Book of the Year, literary fiction, Military Writer’s Society of America

Schultz begins the story in medias res: “It’s not quite sniper fire, but it isn’t random either.” While America is at the mall, a Navy SEAL is treading water in a river as bullets rain “like a Carolina downpour.” The story is flash fiction, hardly more than one page long. From its position as seen through American eyes, Schultz pivots the point of view in the next story in order to see the war through the eyes of an Afghan woman in Kabul. The woman explains how her burqa makes the world more tolerable. Without the burqa she says “...the sun is so bright that when I walk it feels like swimming through sticky yellow air.” Images follow which reveal the carnage of war. An undetonated missile “sleeps like a gigantic baby” in the woman’s garden. Her father is dead. Everywhere there are craters and rubble, a brick wall around her home is gone, and even the tools for repairing the wall have been looted.

The author pivots again in the next story, looking through the eyes of an American soldier “Home on Leave” and trying to adjust. He is partying with his brother, enjoying himself, only to find that the war is at the party too—in the form of a veteran who lost a leg and has turned into a foul-mouthed bully and drug pusher.

There are descriptive gems page after page: “I left one elbow and my entire left hand in the middle of a filleted Humvee...” “I tried to get up and go back inside but my legs felt like sandbags.” [He was] “almost normal looking if the angle is right...” “Once, I watched an old mutt nibble on a dead Afghan’s wounds and nose into his flesh rabid with hunger. The dog appeared embarrassed and lost, like a fallen dictator pillaging the remains of his own village.”

Back and forth it goes, one side, then the other. Up stories. Down stories. Heartbreaking one moment, triumph the next. Stories filled with an immense humanity, all together detailing the trivia, the nonsense, the rudiments and essentials. The nuts and bolts of war, its lifeblood, its jargon, its maddening absurdities and heroisms and senseless deaths and maimings are laid out in a clear, clean, rhythmic tessellation, united with a deceptively minimalist style that out-Carvers Carver and exposes the traumas of war without any breast-beating outrage. But outrage is what one feels. Outrage and exasperation, but also a sense of satisfaction at Schultz’s adept achievement. Flashes of War is her first published book. The stories are so accomplished, so professional that one thinks a well-seasoned writer had written them, a brilliant old stager with a list of publications as long as your arm. Can she top herself? Given the evidence so far, it seems certain she will.

—Previously published in Los Angeles Review of Books (July 2013), and in Serving House Journal (Issue 8, Fall 2013); reprinted by author’s permission

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