These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson is a collection of stories that unearth the unending terror of war.
Each story follows a protagonist that has had some experience with war, whether a veteran, the mother of war hero turned criminal, or simply someone who knows someone who was once in the war. Though Mogelson does not stick with a single character or plot point, the stories are connected through the emotional verve in which they are steeped. Each character, though unique, shares with every other the universal burden of war, of having seen death or been close enough to feel its effects on someone they love.
Some of the most poignant stories are those that don’t fit into the reader’s inklings of what will happen. In To the Lake, it seems almost too obvious where the story is going, but somehow in the last page, the last paragraph, even the last sentence of the story, Mogelson turns the entire narrative on its head, and what the reader was sure was going to happen is transformed into a completely different representation.
Perhaps the one largest critique of These Heroic, Happy Dead is the profusion of gendered stereotypes throughout the collection. Women only appear as widows, mothers of the main character, or ex-lovers who have fallen out of love with the wounded who have come home. No woman is a main character with her own story unattached to a male. Now woman is a soldier herself or has a validated set of experiences that makes the reader want to know her better.
Nonetheless, These Heroic, Happy Dead is a collection of stories wrought with emotion and dripping with a pervasive sense that something needs to change, that war is not glamorous, and that the damage is brings cannot outweigh our urge as humans to both fight and protect.
Published by Tim Duggan books in June of 2016, These Heroic, Happy Dead by Luke Mogelson is available for purchase at your local bookstore.
FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.