posts on 11/8/2010 12:08:58 PM
Hynes' poetic and stark narrative makes "Flights of Passage" an interesting read, one that can easily be entertaining as well as thought-provoking to a point. Yet, sadly, there is something missing from his story which makes the book seem almost like a justification of juvenile behavior rather than an explanation of his involvement in World War Two.
Far too much of the book is devoted to his training days and his encounters with other young individuals looking to get involved with the excitement and adventure of a world at war. But given that his own experience in actual combat was prompt and near the end of it all, there may be little for him to tell in that regard. So what we are left with is the coming-of-age story about a young kid from the Midwest who more or less finds himself taking part in a conflict which, for most of the story, is far away and ill-defined. He learns about love and lust as well as what maturity looks like and how awkward it can be, and all the while the reader is waiting for something to happen, something that will suddenly make all of this personal experience relateable and influencial. But for most of the story, this never happens, and perhaps that is part of Hynes' genious as a writer. He raises anticipation and expectation over and over again, then dashes them, probably much the same way they were dashed for him during his time at war.
As the book draws to a close, the reader begins to understand that what they have read is a story not about the life-and-death stuggles of a Marine pilot in some of humanity's darkest hours, but rather, a story about a teenager who is on his way into adulthood, searching for a way to make the journey understandable, a way to define it through the conflict which was responsible for creating and destroying so many similar journeys for those Hynes came in contact with.