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This is the first newspaper review of the book - Chico Enterprise Record on August 3, 2006

Biblio File Book Review: Corning writer offers novel about Iraq told through young eyes

by Dan Barnett, Book Reviewer at the Chico Enterprise-Record

Phil Dynan is a runner, artist and the Peace and Freedom Party candidate for the 2nd District of the California State Assembly (a post now held by Richvale Republican Doug LaMalfa).

He is also a novelist, and his just-published work, "Brother Eagle, Sister Moon" ($12.95 in paperback or $4.69 download at www.lulu.com), tells two stories of modern day Iraq from the viewpoint of 12-year-old Yussef and his 16-year-old sister Nadia.

The author will appear at Lyon Books in Chico at 3 p.m. Saturday for a book signing.

The Corning resident bills his book as a young adult title. Though there are a few salty words the subject matter -- the war in Iraq and Nadia's being forced into prostitution -- is generally handled with discretion. Dynan says his writing enables him to express in gentle form his sympathy toward Iraqis as well as British and American troops. Dynan himself is harshly critical of the Bush Administration but his novel focuses instead on the friendship of the two siblings with Blackhawk helicopter pilot Sergeant Ernesto Alvarez of the 101st Airborne, the "Screaming Eagles."

Yussef finds himself separated from his large family and befriends an orphan goat whom he names "Tenika" after one of his sisters. "Yussef and Tenika spent almost 11 weeks together -- walking the plains, searching the hills and waterholes of Southwestern Iraq. ... They lived from the land, ate dates, berries and grass, and took water and milk where they could find it. They became friends. ... They had 'grown up' together and become young adults. Although they missed their parents ... they had learned to live within the boundaries of their world. ... They lived in harmony with each other and the beasts and other living things that surrounded them."

Then the pair stumbles upon a city, a "sea of humans," in which insurgents hold workers from Doctors Without Borders. Here, Yussef meets Dr. Yvette Prigent and he must mount a courageous effort to take a message to Red Crescent officials for help. He also meets Alvarez, who is about to propose to Prigent, and the pilot is willing to divert his helicopter to help Yussef find his parents. Things do not go well.

But somehow all the harrowing adventures lead to a good end. Along the way there is a healer, called the Ancient One, who touches the sergeant's wounds. He peers inside Alvarez's dreams and carves something on a piece of shrapnel taken from the pilot's arm. Finally, Yussef is reunited with his family.

Later, Alvarez returns to the family to ask Nadia for an extraordinary favor. He wants her to return to Samarra, to the kidnappers who had forced her into prostitution. They have taken several hostages, among them Dr. Prigent, and Nadia needs to guide the forces to rescue those abducted. Nadia undergoes intensive training in handling a gun and defending herself and eventually the chief kidnaper meets his end at the hands of a Fijian sharpshooter stationed with British troops.

At first "Brother Eagle, Sister Moon" struck me as kind of a fairy-story since at the beginning the reader is privy to some of the goat's thoughts. Yet as the novel progresses there is more realism -- though perhaps surrealism is the better term. There are no answers here to the larger conflict, only hints that one day, perhaps, even people can live "in harmony with each other."

Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to dbarnett@maxinet.com. Columns are archived at http://dielbee.blogspot.com.

This is the first Review I received. Hari Conner is a teen (student) living in London and has her own cool website, too. I've never met Hari in person, but we internet-met due to our mutual interest in Art.

Brother Eagle Sister Moon

The plot starts off as a nice, if quite normal, story about a boy trying to find his parents. Throughout the course of the book though, things that are hinted at become more significant, and the plot blossoms into something more intriguing and less ordinary. It is still quite a basic SToRY if you get down to it, but the way it is written, and the way the sub-plots develop around it is what makes the book so extraordinary.

The style of writing is addictive, to start with. I started reading it at about four o clock and had finished it later that evening. In the first couple of sentences the scene is set and the boy is already alone in the desert without his family... the book moves very quickly. In some books there are less intresting sections and I feel like they're only there to suggest the passing of time, or something. In "Brother Eagle, Sister Moon" every sentence has been constructed carefully so that all of them suit the mood perfectly. There isn't an unnecessary word.*

In a lot of books there's less attention to detail in the minor characters. They have obvious, simple goals and feelings and tend to be less convincing. In this book all the characters have much deeper motivations. They all have their own reasons for being in Iraq, realistic pasts, and clever links with others in the book.

There are some really beautiful descriptions, too, and subtle things that really make a difference, and set the scene. For example, it doesn't go on about how hot it is, but the way other things are described you can tell: people sleeping in the heat of the day, animals gathering at watering-holes, and the descriptions of the desert. All the little things all add up to a wonderful image and stunning setting for the story.

Negative things? The blurb is too long.

I always used to think that there were so many books worth reading, re-reading a book would only be time wasted where I could be reading another book. I didn't think there'd be a book that was really perfect enough that it would be just as interesting the second time around. I'd never read a book twice before, but I've started this one again.

*as opposed to this review... which waffles on an awful lot and doesn't really make any of the points i want it to