Why did I love this book?
Alexievich is equal parts therapist, poet, and historian. She elicits deeply personal memories through oral histories that she artfully weaves into a portrait of vast events. The accounts gathered in this history of the Soviet Union’s ten-year war against Afghanistan give voice to soldiers’ memories of the country they were asked to defeat, which defeated them instead, and parents’ memories of sons killed or otherwise destroyed in battle. I read this book after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, which initiated an equally brutal, mindless, and losing war, and I find sad new relevance in this book as I learn of Russian soldiers being shipped home from Ukraine in the same kinds of zinc coffins that gives this book its title.