Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
By Ben Fountain
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780060885595, May 2012, 320pp.)

The Short of It:

A simple, sweet story about a young man’s brief return from the war in Iraq.

The Rest of It:

Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn returns home on Thanksgiving after a wicked firefight over in Iraq and because it was televised, he and the other members of Bravo Company suddenly find themselves in the spotlight. So much so, that the rights to their story have been sold and a Hollywood deal is in the works.

This was a really interesting read. It’s so simple and subtle and so much of it takes place during a Dallas Cowboy’s football game, that you almost want to dismiss it for being too simple. But I really enjoyed this book for a lot of different reasons. One, it totally captured the feelings of a young man at the age of nineteen. Billy has this wide-eyed innocence that makes him extremely likable. As the minutes tick on, we are reminded time and time again that his time home is brief, that he will be returning to war and that anything is possible. The fragile nature of his existence is palpable and I thought about his situation long after finishing the book.

The other thing that I really liked was how well the author incorporated the other characters into the story. The other men each have their own distinct personalities and since time with them is so brief, this only added to the feeling that life is slipping away for them. Fountain even managed to introduce a love interest for Billy and somehow, it was plausible and I totally bought it.

This is a simple story, told well. Fountain’s ability to hold you in the moment is what made this one a winner for me. It was a finalist for the National Book Award and I can see why.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

26 thoughts on “Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

  1. I just picked up this book two days ago, but haven’t started reading it yet. I’m so glad to read your review, I’m now even more inspired to start. I was under the impression that it was a more heavy war story, I’m actually relieved to read that it’s a sweet, character driven story. (And I’m very glad things seemed to have calmed down for you after the play, and that you’re back with some reviews. I’ve missed these!) 🙂

    1. I have three nephews in the military and they were so young when they went in, that seemed to not affect them at all. I’m not sure they fully realized the gravity of their situation when they were sent in. Now though, after several tours of duty they seem to want to start a family right away… and move on. That’s how this book is. Billy seems so innocent but it begins to dawn on him that he will have to return to war and that’s what keeps the tension high in this novel.

  2. I’ve seen this book around, but didn’t really know what it was about and now that I do, I’m thinking its gotta be added to my TBR list. This one sounds like such a good read! I love when an author is able to make peripheral characters stand out just a bit and sounds like Fountain did just that. Great post, Ti!

    1. I don’t like war stories but when this one became available at the library I snapped it up. And it’s not like any war story I’ve ever read. Based entirely at home and with the media all around them, there is a circus quality to the goings-on and that appealed to me.

  3. I like the sound of this one. It looks like the simplicity of the book was deliberate because of the other underlying subtle aspects of the book. I’ll have to check it out.

    1. I haven’t started reading yet. This was what I read before I fell ill! I read like six books and never reviewed them. I am listening to a book right now but the head is still not right. Maybe this weekend I can actually read a book.

  4. I hadn’t heard of this book before, but it sounds like it’s an excellent read about life and the non-permanent nature of it. I would have been hesitant to read it, because the cover and title make me think it’s a sports book, but your review really shows me that there is a lot more to it than that. Excellent review today. I am glad that you loved this one, and now I will be looking for it. Hope all is well over there, and Happy Valentine’s Day.

  5. This sounds like something I’d love to read at some point. I cannot imagine what it would be like to come back from war, dealing with PTSD, and then dealing with Hollywood.

  6. Although I’m not usually into books about the military or war, you caught my interest with this one. Last year I saw this heartbreaking report on Dateline about a young man and the PTSD he endured after returning from Afghanistan, which I found really eye-opening. I’d be curious to see how the author interprets the innocence you mentioned. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    And, btw, hope your tooth (and the pain) is better!


  7. I didn’t have any interest in reading this book…until now, anyway! I thought it was about a character in the Vietnam War, Yours is the first review I’ve read and I like the sound of the book. Simple and subtle, when done well, amazes me. It’s great to see a review from you. I hope you’re feeling better.

    1. Amy, I’m getting there. There is still something in my chest. I know you can relate. I just can’t get rid of it. It crackles when I breath but doesn’t hurt anymore.

  8. Interesting Ti, I guess there were 2 Iraq war novels that were finalists for the National Book Award – I didnt realize that. I just read the other one The Yellow Birds. check it out over at Now I’m curious to hear if you liked “Billy Lynn” better or less than the Louise Erdrich book that won the award? hmm….

  9. This seems an interesting perspective re: the Iraq war. I didn’t realize there were two books on the Iraq war that were finalists for the National Book Award. I just reviewed the other one (The Yellow Birds) over at Probably not as readable as Billy Lynn’s Long Walk. Now I wonder if you think the Louise Erdrich book is better than Billy Lynn … hmm. cheers

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