Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman

January 27, 2010

A departure from his usual subject matter, Krakauer’s latest chronicles the events that led to Pat Tillman’s tragic death in remote Afghanistan.  While Tillman’s death was initially blamed on an enemy ambush, weeks later the Army released information that suggested he was instead the victim of fratricide – killed by his own men.  Where Men Win Glory explores Pat Tillman’s life and probes the murky circumstances surrounding his death.

In some ways, Where Men Win Glory is much like Into the Wild (1996). In each book, Krakauer tells the story of a unique and perhaps misunderstood young man, who meets an untimely death under unusual circumstances. However, this is where the stories of Chris McCandless and Pat Tillman part ways. To reveal what he believed really happened to Pat Tillman, Krakauer starts with the story of Tillman’s childhood and young adulthood. I really enjoy this aspect of Krakauer’s style and writing. The details about Tillman’s childhood – the good and the bad – really helped create a much more engaging portrait of a man many people may assume was just some jock who enlisted and met an unfortunate end. If I had the same ideas prior to reading the book, Krakauer certainly shattered them. Although I definitely appreciated the glimpse into his character through his journal entries and through the accounts of friends, I did feel there was something missing. Apparently, none of Tillman’s family, except his wife, would interview on the record with Krakauer. Perhaps that explains why, at times, Krakauer’s descriptions of Tillman and his family felt a little flat. Moving beyond his exposition of Tillman, I felt Krakauer provided the reader with an unflinching portrayal of Army life. The book gave me something of an education about the realities of combat.

Where Men Win Glory also had a seemingly unabashed politcal agenda. While Krakauer’s leanings didn’t exactly bother me, I wonder if these rants weren’t just filler to distract from a somewhat thin, subjective telling. Perhaps these are some of the reasons why the book’s publication was originally postponed. I would consider Where Men Win Glory one of Krakauer’s weaker efforts. Yet, aside from these criticisms, I would still heartily recommend Where Men Win Glory to any Krakauer fan. The book still presents a riveting story that is hard to come away from unaffected. Like me, it may leave you lamenting the loss of a unique, talented individual who surely had an exciting future ahead of him.

(Karen H., Reference/Reader’s Services)

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