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Paradise General: Riding the Surge at a Combat Hospital in Iraq

4.10  ·  Rating Details  ·  568 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
IN 2004, AT THE AGE OF FORTY-EIGHT, DR. DAVE HNIDA, a family physician from Littleton, Colorado, volunteered to be deployed to Iraq and spent a tour of duty as a battalion surgeon with a combat unit. In 2007, he went back—this time as a trauma chief at one of the busiest Combat Support Hospitals (CSH) during the Surge. In an environment that was nothing less than a modern- ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 27th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Opening Line: “The last time I talked to my dad was on a sweltering April evening in 2004.It was a lopsided conversation. He had died of a heart attack almost thirty years earlier.”

Paradise General is the gripping personal account of Dr. Dave Hnida, an ordinary civilian doctor from Colorado who spent four months as a trauma chief at one of the busiest combat hospitals in Iraq.

Staffed by reservist medics this modern day M.A.S.H unit consisted of a series of rundown buildings connected by tents, c
Pamela Pickering
As a disclaimer, I am in the healthcare field (nursing) so I may find myself geared towards medical reads more than the average reader. I am also a resident of northern Colorado and have seen the author on Denver TV stations so I was intrigued.

Loved this book! Hnida kept me riveted with this humble, tender, and at times both funny and angry memoir. I found myself both laughing out loud and figthing back tears. As someone who has worked with surgeons on a regular basis it was refreshing to see th
Kat (A Journey In Reading)
May 18, 2011 Kat (A Journey In Reading) rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
This is the story of an American physician who volunteers for two tours in Iraq. The story touches on his first tour and then goes deeper into his second tour where he is an ER physician working "just another day in Paradise".

Some would think that because this is a book about a war and a memoir that it will be dull and boring, it is anything but. Dr. Hnida shares his thoughts about his dad, his practice in Littleton, CO, his daughter and the sights he saw while on tour.

I love how he brought hu
Mar 15, 2010 K. rated it it was amazing
I was given an ARC to review. Paradise General is an unforgettable look inside a combat hospital. Dave's humor is unexpected in a setting so blood-filled. Early on I doubted the humor could last, but he manages to weave in funny details and anecdotes through almost every chapter. Dave's internal journey is something that most adults can relate to. The mid-life odyssey is a traumatic search for answers and inner peace. We all dream of doing something that tests us, that gives to mankind, and that ...more
Jul 17, 2010 Dan rated it really liked it
I keep telling myself that I am done reading books about the war in Iraq, but Paradise General offers a fresh look at the war that transcends politics. If you can get past the gore and black humor, it is a poignant book about mankind's humanity and lack thereof.
Aug 24, 2010 Adrienne rated it liked it
I read this book because:
1. A guy in my couples book club chose it for this month.
2. The author lives in my neighborhood.
3. I sort of know him in that 2 of my kids dated 2 of his kids in high school and his kids were charming. I have a particularly high regard for his daughter, Katie.
4. He's a local celebrity in that he is the medical reporter for a local news station.

All that being said, I didn't really expect to like the book. Non-fiction war books are not generally my cup of tea. I was pleasa
May 14, 2010 Rachel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Rachel by: english class
I thought this book was very good. I was mildly surprised that I enjoyed it so well. I thought it was going to be fairly dark, since it takes place in the middle of the war in Iraq. But it wasn't. I mean, it was dark but the darkness had quite a bit of humour spread throughout it (if that makes sense). It was a book that was very well written, I saw maybe one or two spelling mistakes, but that's expected in almost every book. There will always be a mistake they miss. It was nice to see the docto ...more
May 22, 2010 Paula rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent, very human account of one army doctor's experiences in Iraq. What I liked most was that the reader never loses his or her sense of Dave Hnida as a doctor and a father. I wept over the death of a fifteen-year-old insurgent, an "enemy soldier." I cried harder at the deaths of Americans, because Dr. Hnida never lets us forget that someone at home will have to be told the news, grieve the loss. And yet, through it all is his kind of corny sense of humor--one my own father woul ...more
Jenny T
Jun 05, 2010 Jenny T rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, read-in-2010
The true account of a 48-year-old American physician who volunteers for a second tour of duty in Iraq, to work at a combat-support hospital, the equivalent of a MASH unit. Dr. Hnida writes of saving the lives of a group of American soldiers severely injured in a bomb blast, then struggling to save the life of the 15-year-old insurgent who planted the bombs... Because they're all someone's kids. Heartbreaking, but told with an incredible amount of humor and humanity. An incredible read, this book ...more
David Allison
May 22, 2010 David Allison rated it it was amazing
This book accurately depicted everything I've felt since my last tour took my through the hospital at Balad the author so envied. Although my accomodations were nothing like his, the horror intially felt when the blades of a med-evaq cut through the desert was the same. I applaud the author, this was a fantastic book.
George Huner
May 27, 2010 George Huner rated it it was amazing
A very moving, funny account of his time in Iraq, that reminds us of the very real cost of war. The quote of witnessing the "rude unhinging of the machinery of life" is chilling to think about. It is good to know that we have people like Dr. Dave caring for our troops.
Jul 30, 2010 Lance rated it really liked it
Very interesting, I read it in one sitting. I am grateful there are people who volunteer for this type of duty.
Nov 08, 2011 Madi rated it it was amazing
For those of you who are like me, non-fiction is not the first section that we visit when we enter the library, but when reading paradise general by Dave Hnida, I was just as excited to read as I am any other genre. This exciting page turner was about the adventures of a trauma doctor for the war in Iraq. This book covers the mental and physical aspects of the torture that war inflicts on people. Taking care if both the soldiers that protect our freedom and the insurgents that are hurting our s ...more
Sep 26, 2010 Jon rated it really liked it
I won this book from the Goodreads giveway and I personally would like to thank Dr. Hnida for selecting me as well as his signing and personal note attached to book.

This is a really good memoir and a fast-paced read. I am astonished at Dr. Hnida self-sacrifice to serve our country - to be deployed not once but twice to the theater of war. He could have easily stayed at home and continued his successful private practice, but as he highlights he felt penance. Dr. Hnida is a Littleton, CO Pediatr
Aug 13, 2013 Chrissy rated it really liked it
Shelves: military, medical
Good book about a physician's second deployment to Iraq as an ER doctor in a Combat Support Hospital for four months. The author conveys what every emergency medical practitioner feels: the sheer terror when you're put to the test with your first cases, the questioning of yourself and actions on certain patients, the routine it all eventually becomes, but then getting rocked to your core when you discover you can't save them all no matter how much you know and how much you do for them. The adren ...more
Leah Wicks
Aug 16, 2013 Leah Wicks rated it really liked it
A well written book from a perspective we don't hear much about. Dr. Hnida is a good writer with an honest and at times humorous view of the tragedies of war. The casualties sustained by our young men and women are life long. It bothered me that our doctors were required to provide medical care to insurgents whose goal was to kill Americans. These military doctors stayed true to their oaths, but I can only imagine how hard it must have been. It's also a story about friendship, family, and servin ...more
Rob Ballister
Jan 23, 2016 Rob Ballister rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Dave Hnida has written a truly remarkable book with PARADISE GENERAL. The full-time doctor and part-time soldier (he joined the Army as a reservist later in life) describes his four month mobilization serving in a combat hospital during the surge in Iraq. It is a story laced with honesty, humor, emotion, and spirit that any military vet will recognize and appreciate.

The deployment in the book was actually Dr. Dave's second trip to Iraq. He alludes to the fear and close calls of his first de
The last time Dr. Dave Hnida saw his dad, they talked about Mr. Hnida's experience in World War II. In an attempt to understand his father better, Dave signed up for two tours of duty in Iraq. In this moving and sometimes humorous book, Dr. Hnida brings to life his experiences while serving his second tour at "Paradise General", a combat support hospital in Tikrit. His intimate account of life, duty, and sacrifice there is humbling. This is an honest, well written, great read!
Aug 10, 2010 Joanne rated it really liked it
I thought this was a very well-written, highly entertaining book about subject matter that is sad, worrying and disturbing. The author is a family practice doctor (whose was GP to some of the Columbine victims) who signs up to serve as an emergency doctor in Iraq. This is about his experiences there. So it's kind of like MASH with a more subtle, serious sense of humor. One of the best Iraq memoirs that I have read.
Craig Brantley
Jun 15, 2010 Craig Brantley rated it really liked it
No matter your political persuasion it should be remembered that young men and women are serving our country in harms way. Hnida's modern MASH makes the "old news" Iraqi conflict relevant and vivid to the reader. I hate the reasoning’s behind this war ever being fought, but moved by the heroics documented in this book.
May 25, 2014 Glennis rated it it was amazing
Fantastic read. A wonderful story teller! I enjoyed each and every page of this book.
Nate Andrews
May 04, 2010 Nate Andrews is currently reading it
Great book so far, lot's of dark humor.
Jan 23, 2016 George rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-military
I read this book because I have always been interested in history but mostly because my eldest daughter had told us 5 years ago, as she was graduating from medical school, that she was volunteering for the army, and in particular, as a combat doctor. Needless to say we were extremely proud of her but her mother, in particular, was tremendously upset that she would voluntarily put herself in harms way.

This book is a stark reminder that war is not all glory… is all hell… a statement one of my
Nov 25, 2014 Deb rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
Dr. David Hnida volunteered for duty as an Army medic in 2004, at the age of 48. This book is about his second tour of duty in Iraq, in 2007.

It is a captivating recounting of Hnida's 3 1/2 months as Trauma Chief in the 399th CSH (Combat Surgical Hospital) in Iraq. His description of his experiences treating the young soldiers wounded by IEDs or bullets gives us insight to a part of the war that we seldom hear about - the "get-em-in, get-em-out" life-saving measures taken, often within minutes o
Bart Breen
Apr 26, 2012 Bart Breen rated it it was amazing
M*A*S*H* the Sequel

It's the easiest analogy in the world to compare this book to the cultural icon of M*A*S*H*. This book references the Book, Movie and Television Series M*A*S*H* several times while Dave Hnida recounts his experience as a reserve doctor at a combat hospital during the recent surge in Iraq. It should be qualified however, that this is more like the final seasons of M*A*S*H* when comedy began to give way to Hawkeye's maudlin self-reflection and questioning of the meaning of every
Sean Keyser
Nov 22, 2011 Sean Keyser rated it it was amazing
Welcome to Paradise… not!
By Sean Keyser

Dave Hnida’s personal memoir Paradise General is a non-fiction story about the horrors he witnessed while serving as a medical doctor at a combat hospital in Iraq. The story is also about the bonds of friendship that brought the doctors who worked there together to overcome the stress of helping soldiers, whose bodies were in tatters, on a daily basis. The hospital where Dr. Dave Hnida worked, Paradise General, as the reader will soon find out, is anything
Tracey Cramer-Kelly
Oct 07, 2013 Tracey Cramer-Kelly rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
When we first meet Dr. Hnida, he is hiding in an Iraqi ditch in 2004, embedded with a military unit and worried he is about to die. So he has a conversation with this dead father. (The point, I assume, was to set up this theme of father-son military experience.) However, I soon found that the topic of this memoir was his SECOND tour, in which he did doctor duties in a MASH-like unit (never got into the streets) for 4 months.

Though I would have liked to hear more about his first tour, this was an
True story: Some years ago, a 40-something family practitioner from Colorado, or anywhere, really, looks at himself in the mirror and realizes that he needs to answer the call to go to war. With IEDs blowing soldiers apart and insurgents with weapons more powerful than their brains, this doctor's services are greatly needed, and for him, committing himself to a tour with the Army is the right thing to do.

Some people are very, very good people.

Dr. Hnida (or Dave, as he likes to be called) is on
Lucas Leyba
Nov 08, 2011 Lucas Leyba rated it liked it
An intriguing personal story, Paradise General by Dave Hnida is an entertaining telling of Dr. Hnida’s endeavors as a trauma doc in Iraq. When Hnida and the other doctors aren’t repairing splintered bones and bullet wounds, they’re cracking jokes and throwing rooftop parties. An odd mix, Hnida’s humor is very much apart of who he is, and his way of life at war. His best friends are many of his fellow doctors, the closest of which is Rick, whom Hnida met when he first arrived on a military bus a ...more
Mollie Merino
Nov 08, 2011 Mollie Merino rated it it was amazing
Extraordinary Things

Most people get a glimpse into what war-torn countries look like only through pictures and movies. But Dave Hnida, author of Paradise General, has seen and written about the worst Iraq has to offer. A riveting memoir by a surgeon at a “MASH” -like army hospital, Paradise General is full of horrifying medical cases, hilarious pranks of bored troops and a first person account of the mental toll war can take on a person. At times, I found myself wondering if I should be laughing
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Join CHS at Paradise General CHS 1 14 May 07, 2010 09:37AM  
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