The Ice Beneath You by Christian Bauman

Read: 2006

I had the pleasure of living in the same neighbourhood as the author for several years. He’s a fantastic guy, despite his peculiar affinity for oversized dogs. He gave me a copy of The Ice Beneath You as a (requested) Christmas gift.

The book is divided into two alternating narratives from the life of Benjamin Jones. In one, he is travelling across the United States, drifting and self-destructive. In the other, he’s a soldier posted in Somalia.

Throughout the story, it’s plainly obvious that something happened in Somalia, although it’s not revealed what it is until near the end. The suspense leading up to the big twist is beautifully executed, and the scene itself is very powerful.

The Ice Beneath You reminded me a bit of Catcher in the Rye, in the sense of aimless desperation conveyed. I found that it did a very good job at conveying the trauma felt by many veterans, and the lack of support available to them as they try to make sense of what they’ve lived through as they return to a society that is totally disconnected from the horrors of war.

I’m not often a fan of war books, nor of “modern” fiction, but I did enjoy this one. It’s well written and interesting, and it conveys it’s message with a reserved poignancy that is rarely successfully executed.

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