Tom Walton is a 25 year old team leader at the US Army base in Ft. Drum, New York. He has already been to Bosnia to police the peace-keeping process and soon receives orders to go to Afghanistan to do “real infantry stuff”. His journey takes him to the Middle East after a short leave in Montreal where he meets Amy, a stripper who has read the classics and can spout Latin when the mood strikes her. During Tom’s tour in “Indian Country” he is wounded, spending several months at Walter Reed Hospital, and reignites his relationship with Amy. Months of combat and the accompanying PTSD stand between them as Tom finally faces his own demons.
BREAKFAST WITH THE DIRT CULT at first seems like one more testosterone drenched tale of men and weapons. While the colorful language and almost constant misogyny at times seems to overtake the plot, at about midpoint in the story Tom becomes introspective, trying to determine the reason for the war and finding common human bonds with the Afghanis. His wound and the accompanying disability causes him to reflect on the life of a foot soldier and the political meaning of war. What begins as William Blake’s “hapless soldier’s sigh” becomes an anguished howl of anger at what has happened to America. The constant drum beat of patriotism and flag waving have created a generation of disposable young people who are motivated to fight for their country but in reality are simply defending corporate interests. The war has cost Tom his limb, his buddies and his girlfriend. Mr. Finlay creates an absorbing scene where Tom’s anger, loss and PTSD come together to give a rational reason for suicide as the only means to address his situation. Tom’s response to this, on the last pages is both abrupt and hopeful as he prepares for a life outside the tribe of 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company.
BREAKFAST WITH THE DIRT CULT is a coming of age story set against the horror of war. It is a compelling look at the evolution of a soldier’s beliefs as he struggles to make sense of what has happened to him and the people around him.
Reviewed by Ed Bennett for IndieReader.