The Lost Troop
by Will Mackin
from the November 27, 2017 issue of The New Yorker

Will Mackin first appeared in The New Yorker in 2013, when he published his debut “Kattekoppen” (see our post here) about a group of American soldier’s lost in Logar, Afghanistan. At the time, Mackin had been in the Navy for a couple of decades. Since then, he retired from the Navy in 2014 and has continued to write fiction. Earlier this year he published his second piece of New Yorker fiction, “Crossing the River No Name” (see our post here), and his debut collection, Bring Out the Dog, is coming out next March.

He we have the opportunity to see more of his fiction set in the military. I look forward to seeing what this one deals with and what you all think about it! Please share your comments below.

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By |2017-11-27T17:35:25+00:00November 20th, 2017|Categories: New Yorker Fiction, Will Mackin|4 Comments


  1. Ken November 26, 2017 at 2:14 am

    I thought the three linked stories here were pretty decent but nothing special which, I believe, was kind of my response to Mackin’s earlier, clearly semi-autobiographical, writings. The 3 stories each show the absurdity of war but that’ sharply breaking new ground. The last one really, in my opinion, should have a more definite ending. I don’t have much to say here and i suspect that’s also why no one else has commented yet.

  2. Dennis Lang November 28, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Actually, I found the story totally engaging and vividly described–could see it, even hear it and feel it. Especially interesting I thought, was the way the narrative flowed into imagination and memory, and the past inhabiting the present moment, linked by the ashes of Yaz, as these soldiers return to Kunduz.
    I don’t know, does any act of war ever have a “definite” ending or absolute resolution? The moral ambiguity Mackin leaves us with here, while quite chilling, seemed appropriate to me.

  3. Ken November 28, 2017 at 5:31 pm

    I would agree that war itself has no “definite” ending but as fiction, this piece would have benefited by knowing what happens once the patrol enters the ex-teacher’s hut. I meant “hardly” breaking new ground above not “sharply” which would imply something different.

  4. Greg December 10, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks Ken and Dennis for your thoughts – As always, I have learned from you both!

    Also, I found the following exchange between Deborah and the author so fascinating:

    There’s a certain lawlessness in this troop: we think of these men as decent people, but, at the same time, the final mission they choose has some moral ambiguity to it. I assume that’s intentional?

    That fictional lawlessness has roots in reality. Of all the men and women who join the military seeking discipline, very few become true believers in it. Most, I’d say, simply figure out how to get by, while a very small minority learn how to weaponize their more chaotic tendencies. These are the ones who gravitate toward special operations.

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