Teresa Fazio’s shocking memoir Fidelis recalls her deployment to Iraq and her stateside return.
Fazio, a lieutenant in the US Marines, shares a vivid account of her deployment when she was a naïve twenty-three-year-old. Through her eyes, an American military base camp comes to life. The heat, the wind, the sand, mixed with the smell of latrines and shawarma, are made real via powerful descriptions. Fazio contrasts endless humdrum chores, like digging sand trenches for communication cables, with grim realities, like traveling dangerous roads and cleaning weapons. Marines gossip and watch movies, knowing that bombs could fall at any moment. The juxtaposition of mundane and terrifying circumstances results in a punch-in-the-gut portrait of life in a war zone.
Fazio’s tale centers on the relationships among the American marines she met on the base. She describes her efforts to measure up, cope, and adapt to this alien environment. In poignant self-disclosures, she describes her lack of self-confidence, hidden shame, and fear of her femaleness. Her emotional struggles are disturbing, including the contemplation of suicide. Jack, a kind and attractive (but married) older marine, is her port in the desert storm, but she can’t allow herself to believe he could love her.
Though choppy at first, the book soon settles into a tense, satisfying rhythm. Its organization is, more or less, chronological, with some flashbacks to childhood memories about Fazio’s parents’ difficult relationship and divorce. The masterful use of suspense urges the story forward.
Even after she returns to the US, Fazio struggles to fit in. Final scenes are both sad and satisfying: despite heartache and disappointment, Fazio finds her inner strength and survives to share her story.
Fidelis is a young marine’s tense, heartfelt story of her life before, during, and after her deployment to Iraq.
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