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A Wild Ride, a book review of "Discharge"

"Reading Discharge" copyright 2016 Kristin Fouquet

Memoirs are interesting in that one must trust the writers of such to be reliable narrators. The reader must believe all the facts presented, no matter how embarrassing or potentially damaging, are true. I pondered this as I read Discharge: A Veteran’s Lessons on Outrunning the Pentagon, Moving Stolen Military Art, and Guzzling Civilian Freedom by Ames Holbrook. The story encompasses: the beginning of Lieutenant Holbrook’s discharge on a cross-country drive in a white Cadillac with his wild man friend, The Band-Aid Man; eleven years after his discharge when he is suddenly activated for deployment at probably the worse time in his personal life for such a thing; in contemporary times as he assists Band-Aid, as a partner in crime, in returning a stolen painting, while all along addressing his daughter, Sisi, directly within the pages of a book he has written primarily for her. The reader is privy to Holbrook as the man and lieutenant, a descendent of a long line of honorable military heroes who chooses to become a civilian by nearly any means necessary without completely losing his respect and gratitude for the Army, and also Holbrook as the loving parent. This may seem incongruous for one book, but he succeeds.

The structure of the memoir is one of essays with titles so intriguing, it compels you to read faster. The wild ride of Holbrook and Band-Aid’s road trip reminded me of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, except without all the illegal drugs. Holbrook fearlessly describes each event in vivid and humorous, if sometimes nauseating, detail. The only thing which would have made this part of the book more enjoyable would have been a few visuals- copies of the described photographs Band-Aid Man took of Holbrook and him- long-armed, long before “selfie” existed. This aspect of the story would have made an entertaining book alone as a hell of a joyride, but the addition of his passages to Sisi add a layer of depth.

The reader can do the math and realize the author’s daughter is underage and presumably hasn’t read this raw account of her father’s quest to become a civilian. I’m confident the facts are true and I can't help wonder what she will think when the time comes. The segments written to her are intimate parts of a missive from a father to a daughter. I almost felt a sense of misguided guilt at reading them before her, but this is what gives the story heart and you can’t help but to feel grateful for being allowed access. Ultimately, when Holbrook describes his fear as he is wrongfully being pulled back into the military after his discharge, I am poignantly reminded of the precarious concept of freedom.


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