18-year old soldier Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Baghdad. His memories of the events leading up to his hospitalization are spotty at best; he is suffering from TBI - traumatic brain injury. Matt is told that an RPG exploded next to him while he and his partner were pursuing a suspicious vehicle down a dark alley. But Private Duffy feels that that is not all. His dreams are filled with the images of a 10-year old Iraqi boy shot through the chest. Matt starts to think he might have killed the child in a frenzy of crossfire and just doesn't remember it...
Although "Purple Heart" is a tiny book, Patricia McCormick manages to cover a lot of ground in it. Without being judgmental and not trying to obviously push her political agenda, the author talks truthfully about what comes with the glory of serving one's country. She describes the ambiguous relationships between Iraqi people and American soldiers, the emotional traumas military men experience daily, the disconnect soldiers feel with the real world and their families, the disregard of army officials of serious psychological issues soldiers go through, the need to sweep indiscretions and even crimes under the rug during war time. "Purple Heart" is a complex and truthful portrayal of military service.
However if you follow current events at least superficially, this books doesn't really offer anything that you haven't already seen in news coverage or even movies like "The Hurt Locker." I think the novel would be of more interest to the readers unaware of what goes on in the world and Iraq specifically.
When Private Matt Duffy wakes up in an army hospital in Iraq, he's honored with a Purple Heart. But he doesn't feel like a hero.
There's a memory that haunts him: an image of a young Iraqi boy as a bullet hits his chest. Matt can't shake the feeling that he was somehow involved in his death. But because of a head injury he sustained just moments after the boy was shot, Matt can't quite put all the pieces together.
Eventually Matt is sent back into combat with his squad—Justin, Wolf, and Charlene—the soldiers who have become his family during his time in Iraq. He just wants to go back to being the soldier he once was. But he sees potential threats everywhere and lives in fear of not being able to pull the trigger when the time comes. In combat there is no black-and-white, and Matt soon discovers that the notion of who is guilty is very complicated indeed.
National Book Award Finalist Patricia McCormick has written a visceral and compelling portrait of life in a war zone, where loyalty is valued above all, and death is terrifyingly commonplace.