Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain

Extract published on July 23, 2012.

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Nineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is home from war. Back in Texas, he has become a national celebrity. A Fox News crew filmed Billy and the rest of Bravo squad defeating Iraqi insurgents in a ferocious firefight. Now Billy is a decorated soldier and Bravo’s three minutes of extreme bravery under fire are a YouTube sensation. Seizing on this PR gift, The Bush administration has sent the surviving members of Bravo on a nationwide ‘Victory Tour’ to reassure the homeland. Today, during the final hours of the tour, they arrive at Texas Stadium, guests of honour in a nationally broadcast Thanksgiving Day game. The story follows Billy and his fellow Bravos through a climactic afternoon, as they mix with the rich and powerful, endure the politics and affections of their fellow citizens, aspire to sex and marriage with the famous Cowboys cheerleaders, share centre stage with Destiny’s Child and attempt to close a movie deal. They will learn hard truths about love and death, family and friendship, duty and honour. Tomorrow, they must go back to war. Tender and full of humanity, this is a wickedly funny, powerfully contemporary novel about a young man, the citizens who sent him to war, the family he left behind and the era that let it happen. In Billy Lynn, Ben Fountain has created a new American hero for our times.

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