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  •  Redskins Jason Hatcher Jersey , David Zimmermans gripping first novel about the Iraq war, Pvt. Toby Durrants convoy comes across a dead girl in the road, her body a small white mound, like a fallen bird. Tobys response is to put this child in the small cigar box I keep hidden in the back of my head, close its cardboard lid and snap a couple of rubber bands around it to keep it tightly shut. Just like Ive done with the rest.
    In other words, Toby reacts to the war in the same way much of America does: he compartmentalizes it. He and his fellow soldiers do what they can to manage a relentless series of horrors that are better off concealed in locked boxes, the contents of each sharing a dark relationship to the others. The exact nature of that relationship, and the possible conspiracy it hints at, provides the drama that propels this book forward.
    Consigned to one of Iraqs dustier corners as a bottom-rung grunt after being kicked out of Army Airborne training and flunking out of the Defense Language Institute, Toby is well versed in the self-deprecating sarcasm of those forced to pretend they dont care: The captain stares at me. I cant see his eyes behind the sunglasses Redskins Shawn Lauvao Jersey , just two tiny Durrant heads reflected in the lenses. These Durrant heads look unhappy and tense.
    Like many soldiers, Toby obsesses over the gap between the good life and the soul-sucking, latrine-dump-burning duties of low-ranking warriors. After his stateside girlfriend breaks up with him, he smokes a fine cigar he received from a sympathetic sergeant: The cigar is good. It tastes like a better life. One I might have had if my parents had taken a left instead of a right, if I had said no instead of yes, if I had kept my eyes on the ball, if I had cleaned my plate, brushed my teeth and said my prayers. It tastes so good I can barely smoke it. The better life makes me choke a little.
    For a character like this, in a war as full of indiscretion, deception and savage violence as Iraqs Redskins Bashaud Breeland Jersey , there can really be only one destiny: the wrong end of a bad deal. But Zimmerman has more in mind than merely getting a hard-luck soldier into trouble. The Sandbox is loaded with an M.R.E. caseful of plot elements, all pulled from Iraq war headlines lost billions in cash, prisoner interrogations, soldier indiscretions, failed counterinsurgency plans and all play their part in bringing Tobys story to its terrible conclusion. That every question in this novel interrogates every other is one of its great strengths and will keep you turning the pages of its short chapters, as each weaves the insistent first-person mystery of Why me? with the larger mystery of What are we doing here?
    The Sandbox is a strong debut even though Zimmermans prose tends toward the purple (often literally: a find-and-replace on purple would have improved many of the books landscapes). He can tug a little too hard at the heartstrings, as when he describes the scenery near a bombed-out toy factory: The road to the capital is still strewn with dusty pink rabbits and purple bears.
    Still, by aiming too high, Zimmerman often hits the mark. Those burned toys, for instance Redskins Morgan Moses Jersey , introduce an affecting story line about a young Iraqi child. Theres also an interrogation of an old Iraqi, Uncle Insurgent, that stuns even as it flirts with bathos. The prisoner, so frail there was hardly any hajji under the robe, makes declarations that sound like a jailhouse letter from Ulrike Meinhof: I have 10 guns and you call me bandit. You have million guns, so they call you soldier.
    This should be ridiculous if anybodys going to get a line like that, it should be the tent-corner intellectual you find in every unit reading a dog-eared copy of Howard Zinn but Zimmermans willingness to risk melodrama is often matched by his ability to turn it into genuine feeling.
    As The Sandbox comes to a close, Toby learns that wars final revelations are incomplete and that every bunker confession is in doubt. When an officer gives his version of the events that have engulfed Toby and his friends in an apocalypse of death and deceit, Toby says: I dont know whether to believe the captains entire story, part or