My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I finally read this book AFTER watching the controversial movie and I was quite impressed. Is it perfect for everyone? Of course not. But anyone who knows someone in the military knows that they aren’t perfect, they do what they want, and they say what they want. Kyle does a great job of getting that point across. He didn’t want the book to be heroic or “warm and cuddly”. He didn’t want to talk himself up or to preach to the world about his moral values. Instead he tried to give readers a taste of what it was like to be a warrior in two of America’s longest wars.
First let’s start with the movie. The movie does NOT do Kyle’s story justice and instead dilutes it with classic Hollywood melodrama. In fact, so much of the movie was based on anecdote and probably did not even happen! For example, **SPOILER ALERT***: There is no epic showdown between Kyle and the Olympic sniper. That character is dismissed in the book early on within a few sentences and yet he plays a significant role throughout the film. I couldn’t believe Eastwood and his team made that detail the climax of the movie when so little of it was written in the book.
Book-wise, Kyle does well in setting his priorities straight to the reader from the onset—“Country, Family, God”, in that order. This is a recurring theme in his life as Kyle deploys several times, even when he becomes a father, not just once, but twice. He feels regret sometimes, but again it’s “Country, Family, God”. It’s interesting to see his wife’s accounts (in italics) as well because it shows the dynamism of their relationship. He’s supposed to be a tough Navy SEAL killing “savages” in Iraq and protecting his fellow comrades, yet he cannot face the pain of coming back home to see his family. I would wager that his wife is actually the tougher one in their relationship because she practically raises their kids all by herself. Curiously enough, Taya Kyle has not received co-author status for the book even though she contributed such a significant amount to it. Lastly, it would have been better if Kyle had skipped a lot of the technical details of the weapons and equipment he used. I understand that he must have been asked these questions a lot, but they just don’t fit well. All those intricate details do is add “filler” to what is otherwise a fairly decent read.
To conclude, the book is a good choice to pick up this year. Don’t expect a lot of depth and learning from his recap. Don’t expect a book on leadership, military skill, or a handbook on how to become an elite sniper. DO expect an honest portrayal of his life during the time he fought for his beloved country. Kyle is the true definition of a Patriot who was determined to worked hard to become a SEAL and then excel in his job. I would recommend watching the movie first, though. RIP to the great Chris Kyle.
Read If You:
- Feel patriotic and want an easy read about killing “the bad guys” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Want to get a taste of how war impacts our soldiers and their families.
- Saw the movie and want to make comparisons.
Don’t Read If You:
- Are expecting a mature, introspective memoir of a Navy SEAL.
- Plan on going in with the mindset that this book is just “American Propaganda”.
- Want a humbling, feel-good read. Kyle was a “badass” and he sure as hell was proud of it!
Thanks for reading!