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The Good Lieutenant

3.16  ·  Rating details ·  187 ratings  ·  44 reviews
An acclaimed American novelist with a keen eye for our biggest issues and themes turns his gaze to Iraq, with astonishing results

The Good Lieutenant literally starts with a bang as an operation led by Lieutenant Emma Fowler of the Twenty-seventh Infantry Battalion goes spectacularly wrong. Men are dead--one, a young Iraqi, by her hand. Others were soldiers in her platoon.
Hardcover, 275 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Average rating 3.16  · 
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Jun 06, 2016 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book. It sounded really interesting and was highly reviewed. However, I found myself getting lost almost immediately. Terrell's timeline and layout chronologically is jumpy at best, impossible to follow at the worst. Reorienting myself as to what time frame the story was in was frustrating.

The novel is broken up into chapters, which are further broken into paragraphs told from a different character's perspective each time. I found this difficult to navigate, as it
David Eisler
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: war-fiction
A really fascinating novel about war and how it touches people's lives in many different ways. The reversed chronology demands the reader's attention, but I found the effort worthwhile. It's probably best to read it in as few sittings as possible, otherwise it might be easy to lose track of things. Beyond the structure, I found the main characters interesting and compelling in an honest way. Overall I think this book was a sleeper hit of contemporary war literature in a way I hadn't expected.
Aug 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
Not my cup of tea. It was awkward, I was lost most of the time, didn't like or sympathize with the characters, had no idea what most of the acronyms are and still don't know what a shackle is!!
Alan Fitzgerald
I felt the style of telling the story in reverse was a bit of gimmick which detracted from the novel. It may warrant a second read to fully get the book, but I'm not willing to do this. It may have been better to have told the story in a more linear manner.
Feb 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I thought I would love this book based on its synopsis, but I just couldn't get into it. I felt like the first part was rather confusing, yes it starts with a bang, an IED goes off amongst a group of soldiers. Then the plot goes in reverse chronological order to reveal how people ended up in the position they were in. However, the beginning was so confusing that I wasn't sure what exactly happened to certain characters so then I lost the emotional connection that was supposed to be built up by ...more
Jonathan Bacon
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What do you say about a book filled with military slang, tracing the events in reverse chronological order from an IED explosion to earlier better days, which reverse chronicles the path from the harsh realities and necessities of war back to an earlier innocence and integrity? I admire Whitney Terrell's research, writing and the uniqueness of "The Good Lieutenant," but also find the story troubling and yet (in my limited second hand experience) probably a very accurate view of the effects of ...more
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book that should be mandatory reading for those interested a textured view of modern warfare.

Terrell, based on his time as an embedded reporter in Iraq has weaved a gripping tale told in a surprisingly effective format - moving backward in time.

The writing is concise and the characters compelling. In particular his choice of a female protagonist in a war novel feels genuine and a welcomed twist.

Terrell captures the mundane nothingness of war with its horror equally
Danny Cerullo
Jun 27, 2016 rated it liked it
This is a good book, though I can't say it's a great one. It feels at times more like a writing exercise than a fully realized novel. The novel moves back in time, starting at the climax and moving backwards until we see the characters young and untouched by war. I'll stop short of calling the format gimmicky, because it's certainly effective at times, but overall doesn't quite add up to the visceral gut punch I think it's going for. It's a worthy entry into the growing canon of Iraq war novels, ...more
Aug 29, 2016 rated it liked it
I was really optimistic about this book because the premise seemed strong and I had heard good things about it. In the end, though, the reverse chronology didn't really work for me. I had a hard time keeping track of all the details and had to do a lot of flipping back to review what had happened at what time. I was left with some unanswered questions and felt like some aspects could have been fleshed out a bit more. Still, it was an interesting perspective on the Iraq war and shed some light on ...more
Cardyn Brooks
Oct 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
The sliding timeline and shifting points of view in The Good Lieutenant made me think of Catch-22 and A Few Good Men. The title's irony also made me think of The Good Samaritan biblical tale. This story of Fowler and company is rich and deep in its portrayal of the tedium, the horrors and sometimes ridiculousness of war, where someone loses something as a result of every decision made regardless of being military or civilian; battle winner or loser.

Andy Plonka
Jun 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: src
The story and information about the war in Iraq was first class, but I did not like the reverse chronological order and the changing points of view (initially it was difficult to figure out who was speaking). In addition the dialogue was riddled with acronyms that are probably familiar if you have a military background (which I do not). A simple glossary at the end of the book would be a tremendous help in this area.
Jun 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
I gave it a chance, but I just couldn't get into this book. He needed to develop the characters a little before jumping into Iraq.
Sep 06, 2016 rated it did not like it
I just could not finish this book.
Connor Maginnis
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
This book really did its best to hide its great story, but by the end I managed to discover it. Sneaky! Not sure why the author thought putting the book in reverse was a good idea. It worked, in a way, but part of me cant help but to think this book wouldve been better off read back to front. Instead I found myself flipping back to previous parts of the book once I realized the meaning/context of what Id read only pages earlier. Why do I care about some guy getting blown up by an IED in chapter ...more
Kira Geiger
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really wanted to like this book, but the backwards-in-time narrative format combined with audiobook listening in distraction-heavy NYC kept me from fully submerging in the story. I liked the characters in general, and I appreciate the style and choices made by the author, but I just dont think its a book Ill pick up again - either in print or digitally. I really loved that the author showed rare viewpoints of this war were in and showed a flawed female soldier. Lt. Fowler is not portrayed hero ...more
Dan Downing
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Describing the mechanism used to tell this story without giving away important plot elements may not be possible. I had not read any of the blurbs or jacket notes which forced me to figure a few things out as I read. If I can do that, so can you!
Suffice it to say that this is a war novel, a book about Iraq and American soldiers working there. Salted with humor and insights into the specific conflict the story also reaches into the very heart of war and warriors. Everything is wrapped in a love
Jeremy Hunter
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
I took me awhile to get into this one, but once I did I thought it was fantastic. The novel is about a young lieutenant deployed in Iraq. During the beginning of the novel, Lt. Fowler gets a couple of her soldiers killed on a mission. What follows, is a series of flashbacks of Lt. Fowler before getting deployed. Throughout the novel, Terrell portrays Fowler as a young officer that is clearly over her head. Per usual, Terrell creates memorable charters within an interesting plot. The novel is ...more
Mar 31, 2020 rated it liked it
I love the concept of a book being told backwards, its almost like hearing someone talk through flashbacks. However, the book was hard to understand until the middle of part 2. I didnt really connect with any of the characters, let alone really like any of the characters. I kind of liked Fowler towards the end of the book/beginning. Lots of military jargon that I had to look up. Overall, it was a good book. ...more
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Maybe if I had more familiarity with military service, this book would be interesting reading. In addition to the way it's constructed (backwards chronology, which works, but wouldn't have made sense if I didn't know that in advance), it has military jargon throughout. I enjoyed the last few chapters.
Robert Devine
Jul 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Ambitious storytelling; told in reverse chronological order, I found it difficult to follow and was constantly flipping back to earlier chapters; books get better at the end, but you really have to want it to keep reading
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Took a little while to get what was going on. I like how the book went further and further back in time to explore the relationships and baggage between the characters that led to the events that transpired in the first part of the book.
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Reverse chronological order gimmicky style.
Tris Daza
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
It was pretty good, i enjoy it.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Todd Putney
May 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Gripping war novel. The Lieutenant in the title is a woman.
May 15, 2018 rated it it was ok

Terrells choice to write each section in reverse order of how they unfold is gimmicky at best, and totally distracting at its worst.
David Shetler
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent book on the impact of war on those who fight it. Interesting concept of telling the story working backwards, like the movie Memento if anyone say that.
Sarah Levy
This book has a lot of strengths and weaknesses. I don't believe I'm the target market. I liked the main character as a female in the military in modern day. I don't believe there are a lot of books that cover this and I think it is important to show what is happening in reality in fiction too. I liked the realistic aspect of what happens with the US military overseas. I liked having one main incident that occurs and sort of piecing together how it happened and what led up to it.

I have
Brian Grover
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: war
This book unspools backwards in reverse chronological order, and that sort of literary trickery is always a bit of a red flag to me; I think it has mixed results here.

The book starts us in Iraq, where a "recovery" platoon looking for a missing US soldier's body rolls into a buried maze of explosives and one of their Humvee's is blown apart. Terrell then walks us backwards to explain what they were doing there, and how the soldier went missing. That's the interesting part of the book, and yes the
Christopher Leonard
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Good Lieutenant is an incredibly moving and powerful book about the war in Iraq, and the cost it has exacted on American soldiers. The most surprising element of this book is its structure the story begins at the catastrophic climax and then works its way backward in time. This is a stylistically daring achievement, and it serves the story. By going backward, Terrell slowly unpacks those pieces of humanity that are demolished by war. Rather than watch the main characters get degraded by ...more
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Whitney Terrell is the author of The Huntsman, a New York Times notable book, and The King of Kings County, which was selected as a best book of 2005 by The Christian Science Monitor. He is the recipient of a James A. Michener-Copernicus Society Award and a Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University's Lewis Center for the Arts. He has reported on the war in Iraq for The Washington Post, Slate and ...more

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