Peggy Tibbetts’ PFC Liberty Stryker is an important story that is almost too grim to look at and too well written to look away. Set in the midst of war, Operation Iraqi Freedom, to be precise, the reader is invited into an intimate look at the life of a female army private. Be prepared. There is no gloss of any kind over this woman’s experience in a profession that is still overwhelmingly male. Pvt. Stryker’s life is based on survival: surviving boot camp and the inherent sexual abuse that is a part of that experience; surviving life in the harshness of the desert with bombs and bullets exploding all around; surviving the loss of friends and comrades that is war by definition; and finally, surviving the loss of her father and then the last of her innocence in one fell blow.
The adage “war is hell” is written in as a joke one soldier makes to another, but the author makes it clear that this is no joking matter. The hell of war in these pages is as inescapable for the reader as it is for Pvt. Stryker as the story is written in agonizing first person. The sentences are short and terse, fast-moving arcs that zip across the page like bullets themselves. Any sane person caught up in this mad and violent situation is going to become ill and Pvt. Stryker’s personal illness spills over into her physical condition, a condition that ultimately leads to her losing nearly everything in order to regain her own soul.
Tibbetts brings up the slogan of “shock and awe” as it applies to this horrendous conflict, then proceeds to apply it to her own story. Reading this book and not feeling shocked, not feeling awe at the writer’s ability to pluck you from the safety of your living room and into the field of battle, is an impossibility. PFC Liberty Stryker is the kind of book that will shift the way you look at war, at the military, and at our country’s place in the world. This book is necessary.
I hope everyone who reads this will read the book. Peggy is one amazing writer, and it's well worth the journey.