The Last War
Flash is a photojournalist, and her husband --- who is named Brando but she calls Wonderboy for his Gatsby-esque persona --- is a war correspondent. Together, they make a strong team that fears nothing when entering into some of the world's most dangerous situations. Their relationship has blossomed beautifully, buoyed by the remarkable stress of the life-and-death traumas they see exploding, some quite literally, all around them. However, when a rogue letter from a pretend "friend" shows up in her mail packet from New York while Brando is off in the war zone, Flash starts to come into contact with deep-seated fears about her marriage and the state of her life in general.
Marriage as a war zone is not the newest perspective on this stately institution, but Ana Menendez puts it to good use here. We get the barest of glimpses into Brando's character before he is outed as a nasty, philandering, uncaring big shot with a self-esteem issue. Flash finds herself unable to confront him by phone as he struggles with his work in Iraq. She keeps getting work herself, and her travels in Istanbul result in her becoming acquainted with and increasingly charmed by a mysterious young woman in traditional garb who helps Flash survey her life with a very unconventional perspective. Gradually, she learns to face the hard truths about her marriage, her ambitions and her husband.
Menendez is a fantastic writer; with the most pristine prose, she can relate the most obscene or disturbing emotions. Style is often not addressed as a plus in fiction these days, but Menendez, like Joan Didion, strips her dramas to the sparest skeleton, highlighting the inanities of wartime discomfort and marital discord by taking good characters and forcing them into associations and situations in which they can do nothing but tell the truth. Her spare prose is a truth serum that makes her characters as forthcoming as they could be without bogging down the inherent drama of both the background and the foreground of the story.
I do feel like the Iraq War became the backdrop of this conflict because of its timeliness and not because it was the culture against which all this other emotional spaghetti could be thrown and stuck. The struggles of this intelligent and thoughtful woman could take place anywhere, but the exotic nature of THE LAST WAR only adds to the emotional resonance of its far-reaching plot.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on December 30, 2010
The Last War
- Publication Date: June 1, 2009
- Genres: Fiction
- Hardcover: 240 pages
- Publisher: Harper
- ISBN-10: 0061724769
- ISBN-13: 9780061724763