Marines in the Garden of Eden – Book Review
Marines in the Garden of Eden: The True Story of Seven Bloody Days in Iraq
Richard S. Lowry
The Berkley Publishing Group, 2006
Within the past year, there have been numerous books published relating to the Iraq War. The author’s objectives behind these books are extremely varied. Some authors are seeking to give the definitive account of a battle or campaign. Others have an agenda or opinion they are attempting to express. Then, of course, there are those whose definitive intent is to gain financially. If you are like me, you can generally determine an author’s objectives very quickly into the book.
In the case of Marines in the Garden of Eden, Richard Lowry’s objectives are quite apparent. First, Mr. Lowry seeks to give readers a complete account and perspective on the March 2003 Battle of An Nasiriyah. Second, the author wants to provide a book that truly encompasses the human dimension of war. Finally, he wishes to employ the book as a vehicle to pay tribute to the Men and Women who have fought and continue to fight in the Iraq War. The remainder of this review focuses on how he fared in meeting these objectives.
After completing Marines in the Garden of Eden, there is no doubt that Mr. Lowry has crafted a comprehensive account of the battle. This is achieved by the exhaustive research he conducted in preparation for the book. (This thorough research is not surprising since his prior volume; The Gulf War Chronicles: A Military History of the First War with Iraq received acclaim for its intensive research). The author utilizes numerous personal interviews and oral histories to form the base for his book. In combination, they provide readers with details that bring the battle’s complexities to light. Truly, Mr. Lowry has succeeded in his first objective.
I found Mr. Lowry’s ability to capture the human dimension of war to be superb. Again, the author capitalizes on his research to obtain first-hand accounts (from private to general) of the intense combat that epitomized the Battle of An Nasiriyah. Lowry consistently exhibits the talent to tie these accounts together so readers can experience the powerful emotions of combat. These emotions include the extreme highs and lows, the bonds between Marines and Soldiers that exist on the battlefield, and the ever present feelings and thoughts of the family members that were left behind. I believe Marines in the Garden of Eden exudes the human dimension of war as well as any book I’ve read recently. Again, another objective achieved.
There is no question that Mr. Lowry has the utmost respect for our fighting Men and Women. Readers will find that throughout the pages of his book, he bestows numerous compliments to the Marines and Soldiers who participated in the Battle of Nasiriyah. I have read another review of the book that thought Lowry went overboard in his praise. I however, do not share this sentiment. I found his tributes fitting and certainly well deserved. With that said, Lowry obviously attains his final objective.
Mr. Lowry utilizes several organizational techniques that greatly assist in providing clarity to his audience. First, he makes excellent use of subdividing his chapters by the units taking part in the battle. This way a reader can focus on the actions of one unit before moving to another. I believe if he had attempted to combine all the units’ actions together, readers may have been confused. I have read numerous books in which the actions were combined and I had to continually go back in the book to put the battle in perspective again. This is not the case in Marines in the Garden of Eden.
The second way Mr. Lowry offers clarity is by inserting dozens of maps and sketches within the book. These are highly detailed visuals, but are easy to read as well. The best thing about them is that they are placed in conjunction with the words they are related to. I’m sure many of you are tired of books where a map or sketch is referenced and you have to search the book to view it. It was refreshing to see the visual right next to the corresponding words.
The last technique the author employs is the use of page footnotes. Personally, I am a fan of the page note. It is helpful for me to look at the bottom of the page to see clarification or expansion on a word or sentence. I do not like to thumb back to the end of the chapter of the completion of the book. I know others who feel that the page notes are a distraction. Again, I thought he made an excellent choice.
With so many books currently available on the Iraq War, a potential reader can feel a bit overwhelmed. With this being the case, reviews do serve an important purpose. Hopefully, in this review I have conveyed that Marines in the Garden of Eden is a book that is truly worth reading. I believe readers will find it extremely informative and interesting. Most importantly, it captures the human dimension of war that is so often missing in this genre of books.