From Baghdad, With Love Camille Mumm Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth Composition 117
The Lyons Press, 2006
“Why wasn’t my time spent helping people instead of a puppy? I don’t know, and I don’t care, but at least I saved something.”
-Colonel Kopelman page 177
While the first half of this story is a lot of buildup and background, the second half is quick, but plagued with anxiety from Colonel Kopelman. A lot of behind the scenes information is given compared to the first half which centered on Lava and Kopelman. One of the first things that happens is the election of the new president in Iraq that takes place during Anne’s time with Lava in the capital city of Baghdad. This election is the trigger for more bombs, attacks, and general tension on the streets of Baghdad, putting Anne and Sam at risk. Sam is a new character, he is with Anne in Baghdad and is put in charge of Lava once she leaves for Cairo. He loves Lava and is willing to risk his life to care for him by going out on the increasingly dangerous streets to find a new toy or puppy biscuits for Lava.
Kopelman is markedly different different without Lava’s company. Everything set in his point of view seems darker and more difficult. He finds himself thinking about Lava a lot and the tenor of his emails grows increasingly desperate for information about Lava and the ways to get him out of the country. His accounts of his travels throughout Syria and Iraq are peppered with casualty and bombing reports, which add depressing tone in this section of the book. One of the accounts that I found most disturbing was Kopelman’s elaboration on the fact that the Iraqi militants were using people with Down syndrome and animals to bomb places because they were running out of people willing to be suicide bombers.
Was this addition really necessary? The first half of the book was relatively mild compared to accounts Kopelman gives in the second half. Did Kopelman and Roth use this to show the reader how Lava was a distraction from the violence of the war? Or was it just much more violent during this time? Either way the demographic this book is appropriate for becomes quite a bit more clear in this second half. It’s not a book for all ages.
Throughout Kopelman’s portions of the story, Lava’s journey is being told in the third person. The story also adds different people, from Bonnie, the Military Mascot’s worker; to John Van Zante, who is also trying to get Lava out of the country. The list of people that get involved with Lava’s journey gets rather long by the end and starts to include media, like ABC news, that all want to get in on this story.
Toward the end of the story the point of view is used to create an interesting effect for the reader. By this time Kopelman is on his way back to the California because of the end of his tour. Lava is not with him, but is on a completely separate journey that hopefully ends in the same place. The reader is getting mostly Lava’s journey through the Iraq but it is intercut with short little pieces that both give an update on Kopelman and also show how increasingly desperate he is getting to get news of Lava. The reader is getting information that Kopelman doesn’t have. The story also brushes on how Kopelman is getting settles back in the US, which isn’t a smooth process. His anxiety about Lava’s welfare just makes the transition worse. The quotation used comes from Kopelman’s thoughts when asked why he choose to save a puppy as opposed to saving people. I think it shows both how much Lava meant to him as well as his relief to get out of Iraq alive.I mentioned in the blog of the first half that this story was kind of foreboding. But a set of pictures placed about two thirds into the book shows the reader what the outcome is. This is an interesting way of going about it I think, because Kopelman and Roth could have made this into a very suspenseful ending, but instead gave it away. I really enjoyed this book, and believe that if anyone is up for a heartwarming, though occasionally graphic, story; this book is a great option.