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Book Club Kits: Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare with Iraqi insurgents has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. Now they're on a media-intensive nationwide tour to reinvigorate support for the war. On this rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside Destiny's Child.

Among the Bravos is Specialist Billy Lynn. Surrounded by patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers, he is thrust into the company of the Cowboys' owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Over the course of this day, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years.

Read an excerpt from the novel.

Discussion Questions

  • Do the young men from Bravo meet your expectations of what war heroes are...or should be? Given their behavior—drinking, trash-talk, hyper-sexuality, and brawling—are they what you think of when the word "hero" comes to mind? Do you find Ben Fountain's portrayal of them funny ... offensive ... realistic...?

  • Talk about the individual members of Bravo, especially Billy and Dime—what do you think of them? What other member of the team stood out as you read the novel?

  • What kind of character is Albert? Most books and films are scathing in their portrayal of Hollywood and its values. How does Albert, a three-time Oscar winner, stack up to the stereotypical Hollywood producer—what do you make of him?

  • Talk about the other characters—in particular Billy's family and, of course, Norman Oglesby.

  • Billy feels it's obscene to talk about Shroom's death...

       and he wonders by what process any discussion about the war seems to profane these ultimate matters of life and death (p. 137).

    Is it possible for any noncombatant to understand the depth of Billy's grief? Is it "profane" to talk about Shroom...or is there a way, as an outsider, to talk about war and death without cheapening it? Billy thinks there ought to be a special language to do so. Do we have such a language?

  • The book seems to take aim at civilians who talk to the Bravo team: their questions, comments, and references to patriotism, 9/11, terrorism, God, and war are over-the-top—their words are even presented in a vertical-diagonal format. But much of the outpouring of gratitude seems genuine, even if inane. How does a civilian talk to a combatant, someone who faces the constant threat of death and witnesses violence on a scale unimaginable to most of us? What can any of us say? What have you ever said to a returning soldier?

  • The book abounds with parallels between the world of football, especially the Cowboys, and the military. Talk about how those similarities evidence themselves throughout the book? What is the author trying to get at by setting up comparisons between the two?

  • Albert tells Bravo that they are true heroes for the twenty-first century. He says that their heroism "has really touched a nerve in this country" (p. 56). What "nerve" has been struck...why is the public so enamored with the young men? Why the deluge of attention and adulation? What is it based on?

  • Billy, on the hand, pities the Americans and their frenzy to connect with Bravo. He refers to them as children (pp. 45-46). Why is he so disproving of his fellow Americans? Do you consider Billy cynical? Or does he realize something about the nature of his fellow citizens? If so, what does he see in us?

  • Billy thinks that Americans have no conception of the "state of pure sin toward which war inclines" (p. 46). What does he mean? How does war incline to sin if one is fighting for one's country?

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk Movie

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk on IMBD

Check the catalog for availability: Billy Lynn's long halftime walk [videorecording (DVD)]