A 2016 New York Times Notable Book

One of Amazon’s 10 Best Books of 2016

Chosen as one of the year’s best by BooklistMother JonesForeign Affairs, the National Post, and the Globe and Mail

Winner of the 2017 Vine Award and the Canadian Jewish Literary Award, shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize, the Hillary Westin Writer’s Trust Prize, and Israel’s Yitzhak Sadeh Prize for military writing

“It was one hilltop in a small, unnamed war in the 1990s, but it would send out ripples still felt worldwide today. The hill, in Lebanon, was called the Pumpkin; flowers was the military code word for ‘casualties.’ Award-winning writer Matti Friedman re-creates the harrowing experience of a band of young Israeli soldiers–the author among them–charged with holding this remote outpost, a task that changed them forever and foreshadowed the unwinnable conflicts the United States would soon confront in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.

“Part memoir, part reportage, part military history, this powerful narrative captures the birth of today’s chaotic Middle East and the rise of a twenty-first-century type of war. Raw and beautifully rendered, Pumpkinflowers will take its place among classic narratives by George Orwell, Philip Caputo, and Vasily Grossman. It is an unflinching look at the way we conduct war today.”


Praise for Pumpkinflowers

“Friedman’s sober and striking new memoir . . . [is] on a par with Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried — its Israeli analog.”
— Gal Beckerman, The New York Times Book Review
“A book about young men transformed by war, written by a veteran whose dazzling literary gifts gripped my attention from the first page to the last.”
— Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal
“Destined to become a classic text on the absurdities of war… A beautifully written account of a young Israeli soldier’s experience. A stunning achievement.”
Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer and New York Times bestselling author of The Good Spy
“The narrative is reminiscent of novels by Denis Johnson and Robert Stone … A haunting yet wry tale of young people at war, cursed by political forces beyond their control, that can stand alongside the best narrative nonfiction coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq.”
—  Kirkus (starred review)
“Friedman’s experiences provide a critical historical perspective on the changing climate of war in the Middle East … His lyrical writing, attention to detail, and personal honesty draw the reader into empathy along with understanding. Friedman’s memoir deserves wide readership.”
—  Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Iraq veterans finally have their book; a manuscript that really deals with the whole of the Iraq experience…Matti Friedman has done a great service in helping Americans understand our own unpopular and ambiguous war by giving us the lens of Israel’s unpopular and ambiguous war. ”

— Douglas Ollivant, US Army (ret.), former National Security Council Director and Senior Advisor in Afghanistan
“A compelling war memoir containing elements of terror, observation, boredom, and grim (at times absurd) humor…an excellent read.”
— Library Journal (starred review)
“Matti Friedman’s requiem to youth and family and soldiering hits the mark to which all of us aspire. This book broke my heart.”
— Brian Castner, author of The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life That Follows
“An instant-classic war diary.”
— Max J. Rosenthal, Mother Jones
“Pumpkinflowers is a sad, lyrical book—proud and fierce on its own terms. [Friedman’s] memoirs of his time in the mist and the mountains of Lebanon are full of haunting insights into what it means to be a soldier. It will be remembered as a classic.”
— Ben Judah, Prospect (UK)
“Riveting. Pumpkinflowers is both an historical jigsaw puzzle and an examination of Israel’s fraught national identity. Friedman recounts an almost forgotten moment in Israel’s long entanglement with her neighbors, managing to illuminate the confusion at the heart of the conflict as well as chillingly echo America’s own slide into prolonged wars in the Middle East.”
—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone
“Inspiring, heartbreaking, illuminating. Matti Friedman’s brilliant account of a forgotten war seen through the lens of a simple soldier is at once a coming of age story and an essential chronicle about how the 21st century was born.”
—Yossi Klein Halevi, author of Like Dreamers
“An unforgettable nonfiction account of men changed by war, told in a voice that is both straightforward and undeniably literary.”
— Editorial Team, 10 Best Books of 2016
“A compelling narrative, freighted with explosive geopolitical implications.”
—Booklist, starred review