Review: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy CombatantFrom the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry
Published by Viking Adult on January 5, 2012
Genres: Humor
Pages: 302
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher

Fashionistas and g-men clash in a mastermindful debut

Boyet Hernandez is a small man with a big American dream when he arrives in New York in 2002, fresh out of fashion school in the Philippines. But on the brink of fame and fortune, there comes instead a knock on the door in the middle of the night: the flamboyant ex-Catholic is swept to America’s most notorious prison, administered a Qur’an and locked away indefinitely to discover his link to a terrorist plot.

Now, in his six-by-eight-foot cell, Boy prepares for the tribunal of his life with this intimate confession. From borrowed mattress to converted toothpick factory loft, from custom suit commissions to high-end retail, we are immersed in a wonderland of soirees, runways, and hipster romance in twenty-first-century Gotham.  Boy is equally at home (if sometimes comically misinformed) invoking Dostoevsky and Diane von Furstenberg, the Marcos tyranny and Marc Jacobs, the vicissitudes of memory and the indignity of the walking sandwich board. But behind the scrim of his wit and chutzpah is his present nightmare of detainment in the sun-baked place he calls No Man’s Land. The more Boy’s faith in American justice is usurped by the Kafkaesque demands of his interrogator, the more ardently he clings to the chimerical hope and humanity of his adoptive country.

Funny, wise and beguiling, From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant gives us a tale so eerily evocative that it, and its hero, are poised to become an indelible part of the reader’s imagination and the literature of our strange times.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that this is a bit out of my normal range of reading. This is not just because I have been reading so much YA literature, but also because I generally try to avoid anything political. However, when I got an offer to review this book, I took it, since who doesn’t love a free book. Besides, it’s always (note: this is hyperbole) good to push your boundaries and leave your comfort zone. I am so glad I did.

From the first, I loved this book. Boy has such a clear strong voice and a wonderful sense of humor, despite the darkness of many sections of the story. The bulk of the book is his confession to his interrogators, alternating between his current thoughts at the time and his memories of events in roughly chronological order. There are also humorous footnotes here and there that contain a fashion magazine writer’s notes on what Boy got wrong in his statement.

From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant is like Ugly Betty meets Little Brother. What makes everything in this book so painful, and not just because you’re laughing so hard at the dark humor, is that it is believable. I can totally imagine our government mistakenly ruining an innocent man’s life and never owning up to their errors.

This is a most excellent read that I recommend highly to those who fear our country may be turning into a dystopia, who love black comedy, or adore high fashion.


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