Crossing the Wire is a novel about the peacekeeping force in Iraq, but
it is also a great deal more. Initially following the Iraq experiences of Lieutenant James Robert, the novel expands to give us views of life now and
before from many characters with whom the novel interacts. There is a Christian alcohol vendor, other members of Robert's force, a suicide bomber, a nurse to a former doctor, and an Iraqi woman who ends up in a relationship with Robert.
The short chapters focus on these different people, interspersed with chapters about Saddam Hussein's rise to power and his life as Iraqi president. The most powerful chapter
is "numbers", a one-off featuring a Jewish man who left Iraq and who discusses briefly the history of Jews in Iraq over the millennia. The rest of the writing is also moving, showing the different lives of people and the conflicts between the Shias and Sunnis, the Americans and Iraqis, Saddam and his opponents, always an interesting read. The apparently disjointed way in which the chapters skipp to different narrators and sometimes to different times helps to give an impression of the confusion and lack of security of life in Iraq now and works very well as part of this novel.
There is little political propaganda and no overt evaluation as to the
justice of the U.S. presence in Iraq; the book just shows life on the ground for the soldiers and for the Iraqis. There is a small leavening of humor in the story with
one soldier, Card, discussing his fictitious wife and his fear of increasing baldness, but overall the book is a somber read, displaying all the problems in Iraq without showing any possible routes forward toward peace. It's an excellent novel
that leaves many open-ended questions but gives a taste of the situation in Iraq and the difficulties faced by both the Western troops and the Iraqi natives.