Verdict: Though neither an exciting thriller nor a deeply felt memoir, this is nevertheless a fascinating, unique, and authentic glimpse into a soldier's mind.
BACK TO SERVE by Cesare Giannetti is the story of Captain Nico Corretti, retired from the Army, who succeeds—after a few false starts—in reintegrating himself back into civilian life. He carries with him all the usual pressures—wife, children, unemployment, aging father, in addition to the haunting memories of battle. There’s also a mysterious Russian woman who draws him into a new mission with new dangers, forcing Corretti to put his retirement on hold a couple of times, sending him to dangerous duty in Budapest, Moscow and Baghdad, plunging him back into the never-ending war a patriot is often forced to fight in this day and age.
The book is a terrific introduction to what it’s like to be in the military and to think like a soldier. The protagonist’s struggle with life outside the Army is insightful and moving; the author has obviously been there and knows the terrain. Written in first person, BACK TO SERVE certainly gets into Captain Corretti’s head, but much of what he’s thinking about is scattered: sports, battles, liquor, history and weaponry. While definitely a key to the character’s personality, the randomness of these thoughts and the sheer volume of detail dilutes the suspense-thriller aspect of the book. Those expecting a taut action novel will be disappointed, while on the other hand it’s not quite deep enough to qualify as a personal memoir. The dozens of flashbacks—ball games, battles, drinks shared, Officers Candidate School—show a scattered life lived on the move, which at times makes for a scattered book.
There’s a great deal of information here for those with an interest in military matters. It’s a home-movie of a book, with all the inherent charm, but also some of the pitfalls. The twenty photographs, maps and illustrations add to the allure—a nice touch. The framing device of driving home cross-country at the end of a career works nicely, too, and many of the slice-of-life incidents and characters are well-drawn. With the US engaged all over the world, and with many in the military involved in multiple deployments, it’s gratifying to see books being written by the men and women involved. To Chief Warrant Office 3 Cesare Giannetti, U.S Army (ret.): “Thank you for your service,” and also, “Thank you for writing about your service.”
~Dave Eisenstark for IndieReader