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Places and Names

Places and Names
From a decorated Marine war veteran and National Book Award finalist, an astonishing reckoning with the nature of combat and the human cost of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.

War hath determined us... - John Milton, Paradise Lost

Toward the beginning of Places and Names, Elliot Ackerman sits in a refugee camp in southern Turkey, across the table from a man named Abu Hassar, who fought for al-Qaeda in Iraq and whose connections to the Islamic State are murky. After establishing a rapport with Abu Hassar, Ackerman takes a risk by revealing to him that in fact he was a Marine special operation officer. Ackerman then draws the shape of the Euphrates River on a large piece of paper, and his one-time adversary quickly joins him in the game of filling in the map with the names and dates of places where they saw fighting during the war. As it turned out, they had shadowed each other for some time.

The rest of Elliot Ackerman's extraordinary memoir is in a way an answer to the question of why he came to that camp, and what he hoped to find there. He shares vivid and powerful stories of his own experiences in combat, culminating in the events of the Second Battle of Fallujah, where his actions leading a rifle platoon saw him awarded the Silver Star. In that unforgettable final chapter, Ackerman weaves his chaotic memories of the battle with the formal language of his official recommendation for the medal. He builds these stories into the latticework of a larger reckoning with contemporary geopolitics and the human extremes of bravery and terror. At once an intensely personal story about the terrible lure of combat and a brilliant meditation on the past two decades of strife for America, the region, and the world, Places and Names bids fair to take its place among our greatest books about modern war.

Publication Date: 
June 9, 2020