Dark at the Crossing

Dark at the Crossing, decorated veteran Elliot Ackerman's second novel, after the acclaimed Green on Blue, follows Haris Abadi, an Iraqi American trying to cross the border from Turkey into Syria to fight with the Free Syrian Army. Haris is haunted by his time as a translator for an American Special Forces unit in Iraq, where he was "Iraqi in a war against Iraqis, and American in a war against Americans." Haris's ambitions are frustrated almost immediately upon arriving in Turkey, when he's robbed and forced to rely on the well-positioned Syrian refugee Amir and his wife, Daphne, a troubled, grieving couple who might be able to help him get across the border. Amir and Daphne are struggling with the slow disintegration of their marriage as they find drastically different ways to reconcile their experiences in Syria. Haris's search for a morally and spiritually redemptive "good war" is constantly frustrated by the region's messy reality.

Despite the despairing tone of the novel, Ackerman extends an impressive amount of empathy toward each of the characters. Everyone, he seems to argue, has a reason for doing what they do, even if it's an obscure, almost atavistic reason: "For Jim, maybe there wasn't a shred of meaning in any of this. Maybe for Jim, the whole war was just an impulse fulfilled." Instead of trying to make a grand statement about what war means, Dark at the Crossing illustrates how war can mean different things to different people. --Hank Stephenson, bookseller, Flyleaf Books

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