Full Measure, by T. Jefferson Parker, is a departure from the crime novels he has written in the past. This book is about the bond between siblings as well as those connected through military service. It puts a potent face to the names and numbers of those serving as they transition from war to peace, and from serving in the military to becoming a civilian. It is a novel that touches on many issues from PTSD to the plight of an agricultural family.
The plot focuses on the experiences of those soldiers returning home. It also has sub-plots of political/controversial issues about governmental overreach and the right to bear arms. Although Parker does present both sides of these issues these sub-plots are a distraction from the body of the story as his main character, Patrick Norris, tries to find a place for himself in the civilian world after finishing his deployment in Afghanistan.
Norris is trying to fulfill his dream of starting a small sport fishing business, only to find he is needed to help restore his family’s avocado farm after an arsonist destroyed much of it. He encounters his brother, Ted’s, strange obsessions that have a very dark undercurrent, being drawn into a circle of violent, criminal misfits.
The most powerful parts of the story are when Parker describes how Norris and his Marine buddies attempt to overcome the horrors faced while serving in Afghanistan including watching their friends die and become handicapped. He struggles to defeat the demons of PTSD, bringing back the horrid memories of war. A quote in the book, “He saw the flash of light again. It was bright enough to obliterate the world…there was no sound either, as if his memory was being polite in public. The ghosts in his heart rose suddenly, then settled. Patrick lowered his gaze to the tiled floor and closed his eyes and let the voices swim around him.”
Another quote in the book shows the disconnect between civilian and military life, “This was what he hated most about civilian life-the incredible slowness; the numbing discussion, the goop-thick assumptions…” Jefferson commented, “What drove me to write this book is that Americans do not seem to understand the level of sacrifice. I did not get it until after speaking and spending time with those serving. Their level of sacrifice is completely different than for someone going to college. I do think many Americans want to say thank you, buy them a beer, but do not want to hear about what they really did or are going through. I really hope people understand what the vets are going through after coming home. Lets remember only about two percent are connected with someone serving, which means 98% of us do not know these guys and gals. I want to leave the reader with a sense of hope and optimism about the veteran.”
Readers might wonder why the title, Full Measures, as Parker describes in the book the “full measure” of death and mutilations. What comes to mind is a line in the Gettysburg Address, “that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
Jefferson stated, “Patrick wonders what was the purpose of fighting in Afghanistan since it appears it was all for nothing. That is his view and one I share, although I hope we are both wrong. I interviewed a lot of vets for this book and there is anger because they question if their brothers died in vain. I put a variation of the Gettysburg Address line because it is relevant to this war when so many lost their lives, limbs, or part of their soul.”
It becomes evident that Parker wished to connect Americans with those soldiers returning home. He captures the bonds of loyalty between brothers, those by birth and those “band of brothers” that served together. This novel brings back the age-old story of brothers: the comradery, competitions, and love. Anyone who wants to understand the mindset of recent veterans and the joys and tribulations they must go through should read Full Measures.
On a side note, he will be participating in the Veteran Benefit Book Fair in San Diego on November 8th aboard the USS Midway, since he considers this a worthy cause.