Book Review: “Fobbit,” by David Abrams
A Fobbit, defined on the cover, is a derogatory term used to describe administrative and support personnel who do not participate in combat. The word is spoken with venom by combat arms Soldiers and other road warriors who risk their lives daily, while others live in relative safety of the "FOB," or Forward Operating Base.
The term is contemporary, and Tolkien-inspired, but veterans of all ages will recognize the characters, as Abrams molds generations of Fobbits into a handful of fictional characters for his book.
The plot of Fobbit has numerous twists and turns, but like the war itself, the story happens to the characters, a series of small occurrences that fit together in the most ludicrous way. The book's power is within those characters, who become real people within paragraphs of their introduction.
I say this because I was a Fobbit, and while I served two tours a few miles north of Abrams, I knew his characters…with each revealed quirk, I would laugh to myself, and say, "That's him! That's Sergeant So-and-so!"
I am generally inspired to write reviews when I see that other reviewers haven't done it justice, and there isn't much out there about Fobbit that is accurate, except in places where the reviewer has used the word "brilliant." I think that some of them just have a dart board in their offices covered with adjectives. Lieutenant Colonel David Abrams deserves more than this.
The characters were called absurd, as a compliment, by the Washington Post, but that proves that the reviewer's military experience is probably limited to playing with his G.I. Joes as a kid. While this is technically correct, they aren't caricatures that Abrams conjured from thin air, these are amalgams of real people, stereotypes of thousands of real Fobbits. I suspect there is one based entirely on a real person, and Abrams just doesn't want to call him out publicly.
It's been called a comedy, and I suppose this is true. Some things, however, are only funny because they are real, and to some of those of us who have experienced this reality, they aren't so funny at all. Tragic would be a better term. You know how sometimes a vet can crack a joke and other vets will laugh, but if a civilian laughs too, then it's a social blunder? This is how I feel when reading the reviews.
It's anatomically correct, in that vets won't flip through it, finding the wrong bullets fired from the wrong gun, or soldiers wearing the wrong stripes. This doesn't matter to some people, but it matters to vets, and there are millions of us.
David Abrams' Fobbit arrived on a Thursday afternoon. That night, I read it until I couldn't stay awake. On Friday, I started it the moment I got home, and didn't stop until the end. Not just because it is a slippery read, but because I could not put it down.
Whether you are a veteran of the latest wars or of ones past, the truth of Fobbit will stir the powerful memories. You can't make this stuff up, and Abrams didn't. Fobbit or not, this Soldier was there.
Buy it. Read it. My wife is reading it, too – and I think she will soon understand just how ridiculous a war can be.
Read a preview of Fobbit, by David Abrams
you can buy it here.