Christian Science Monitor review

By David Holahan

May 4, 2014

Matti Friedman, author of Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story, was there at the beginning, in 1998, fighting for Israel in the non-war against the non-state fighters of Hezbollah in ungoverned south Lebanon.

It was, in his telling, the beginning of much of what is happening in the Middle East (and beyond) today: unending conflict with no clear winners or losers, in intractable places where propaganda is more important than victory  – indeed, war without end, in which one side views both the suicide and combat deaths of its own fighters as victories.

The skirmishes Friedman describes, some of which he participated in as an Israeli soldier, were not epic. No territory changed hands and nobody admitted defeat. Casualties, while often horrific, were not overly great. And no one bothered to pen a history of this particular Israeli incursion into Lebanon, which ended in 2000, until this personal and moving narrative.