Carol's Reviews > Dust to Dust

Dust to Dust by Benjamin Busch
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Jul 20, 2012

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Read in July, 2012

A skillfully-written memoir by a Marine combat veteran who describes himself as a "solitary being." The author has organized his memoirs around themes reflecting substances in the natural environment such as soil, stone, arms, blood, and ash. An underlying theme of this book, in accordance with its Biblical title, is that men and all the objects they create eventually age, die, scatter, turn to fragments, and are forgotten. This underlying theme recurs in sharp contract to the author's ostensible purpose as a memoir, and in contrast to the author's father, a novelist, who sometimes wrote fictionalized versions of his son's activities in his novels and who wished to be remembered after his death. Mr. Busch's parents forbade him to have a gun, but Mr. Busch was repeatedly drawn to guns, warfare, and death; while a college student he volunteered for the Marine Corps and served three tours of duty as an office in Iraq, a choice that greatly distressed his parents.
The fragmented and transitory nature of memory is reflected in his memories of events in his life such as moving, building, collecting, travel, and warfare. This memoir is curiously detached -- objects in the natural environment rather than people take center stage, and the only people who figure very prominently are his parents. Objects and features in the natural environment, such as trees and great rivers, are described memorably. The author has a brother, wife, children, and friends, but they seem almost peripheral to his narrative.
The detached manner of the narrator made the book drag somewhat for me, although it may not bother other readers. This is the reason I gave it three stars; although it is artfully written, it seemed gloomy and disturbing. Although his premise is correct, one perhaps need not dwell constantly upon death,war, and cemeteries during the few brief years one is granted to live on earth.
The one image in the book that stood out was the accidental death of a duck that he unwisely captured from the wild for his daughter as a pet.
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