Top critical review
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on February 23, 2013
Chris Kyle served four tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, making 160 confirmed kills of enemy soldiers and insurgents. In this biography, Kyle begins by describing his early life, his decision to join the Navy, and the courtship of his wife, Taya. The narrative then alternates between Kyle's military experiences and his home life with Taya and their children.
Kyle's descriptions of training and camaraderie in his Navy SEAL unit are similar to those from other military biographies. The training is hard, the participants are tough, and the officers in the "head shed" have them do some stupid things. The deployment sections of the book describe battle with Iraqi insurgents and the tactics that do and don't work against them. Kyle gives names when praising heroic actions of his fellow soldiers and uses unflattering labels when describing those for whom he has less respect. Don't miss what he says about "Runaway." Kyle comes across as a true solder--capable, patriotic, loyal to his comrades, and ferocious to his enemies. The enemies include opponents in bar fights as well as the Iraqis. We remember more than once that soldiers are very young as well as very brave.
The domestic segments of the book are less exciting, but have a depth not found in the combat stories. Kyle has trouble transitioning to his stateside life. And his wife has trouble understanding the war he leaves behind--and feels he must return to. His personal code of loyalty to "God, country, family" in that order is only a little different from Taya's. Why can't he move his family up to second place? We watch them go through the same growth struggles that all couples experience along with the unique challenges imposed by wartime military service. There are some useful lessons here.
It is clear that Chris Kyle was a heroic solder who served our country well. While his book has its moments--like the time he failed to hang up his cell phone before a fire fight and his wife heard the whole thing--it is a bit less than it could be. Certainly this is not because Kyle's life is uninteresting. But he could have shared more details about his work as a sniper. That's how the book is advertised and that's why most readers will pick it up. By that standard it falls a bit short.