You all know how big of a fan I am of non-fiction works, right? Ha ha. Yeah. Right. Not at all. I typically don’t read much besides fiction and its various subgenres. However, occasionally I will come across one worth reading. My younger brother actually talked me into reading this one. My younger brother doesn’t read much, so the fact that he read a 440-page book told me it was worth it. Plus, I admit I saw the movie sometime last year, so I already knew the gist of the story. The movie made me tear up, but it in no way prepared me for the attack of feels from the book.
Marcus Luttrell and his three Navy SEAL comrades embarked on Operation Red Wings in 2005. Spoiler alert (but not really, because the title kind of gives it away): only three of the four men made it out of those Afghanistan mountains. Lone Survivor is the firsthand account of the ordeal by Luttrell. Never before has a non-fiction work ever interested me, and certainly not made me cry, as much as this novel did. I was fascinated by every painful chapter, and as much as it hurt to read on, I did. I knew the outcome; I knew how the story ended, but that didn’t make it any less intriguing or heartbreaking. The movie did not compare at all to this book. It took me a couple months to read it because I’m an English major and my school books kind of have seniority over my fun books…but in the course of those months, I learned a lot about the Navy SEALs, Afghanistan, and combat in general.
About the first half of the novel is about Luttrell’s life and his training leading up to becoming a SEAL. The second half is about Operation Red Wings and the aftermath. Many people complain that the beginning is too slow, too boring, too autobiographical, yadda yadda. I did not think that at all; in fact, I found it incredibly interesting to learn about Luttrell’s life and the BUD/S training. I’ve never had much of an interest in the Navy, Army, Marines, and so on, but I’m really glad I learned so much from this book. It was very insightful, informative, and interesting, as well as heartbreaking, captivating, and powerful. A lot of the reviews on Goodreads make me sick, saying the book is boring, inaccurate, or that it’s basically entirely about Luttrell “patting himself on the back” and focusing solely on himself rather than his fallen teammates. These people obviously did not read the book, and if they did, they didn’t quite understand Luttrell’s words.
After finishing the book, I gave it back to my younger brother and we watched the movie again. This time, I noticed how much was cut from the movie (like all book-to-film adaptations). More specifically, though, I realized how much more I knew from reading the book than watching the movie. Luttrell is so detailed and the book is incredibly informative. Everything made a lot more sense after reading the book. Anyway, after the movie ended, I turned to my brother and said, “I can’t help but wonder how things might have turned out if they just would have killed the goatherds.” Not that I’m saying it was the right decision, because God knows I don’t know what the right decision would have been. I truly and honestly don’t know. And I don’t know how things would have played out if they had killed them. But my brother replied, “They probably would have all survived, and you never would have known about any of them.” I thought about that for a second, and after having seen the movie twice and finally just read the book, I told him this: “I would much rather these men have survived, even if that means I never would have known they existed. With everything in me, I wish they would have survived.”
They did not survive, though – only one managed to make it out of those mountains, and because of it, I now know about Murphy, Danny, and Axe. I know about Marcus Luttrell, the lone survivor. And I can honestly say, after reading what I just read, I will never forget them.