Former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s book, The Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, has been around for more than two years, but it is a book that has yet to retreat into the shadows of time. There are books that just come and go, but it seems like Luttrell’s tale of camaraderie, patriotism and courage is for keeps.
So what exactly is Luttrell’s secret to success? He is no literary genius, but his story has a heart, and that is probably more important. Granting that Luttrell had a great partner in novelist Patrick Robinson, the latter’s writing talents will be for naught if the story itself lacked luster.
Interestingly enough, one would think that the memoirs of a former Navy SEAL about being part of a mission to capture a Taliban leader in the Afghan highlands which resulted in a clash that practically wiped out his comrades would only attract avid followers of writings involving the military as well as readers who had military or SEAL backgrounds or ties. While the book, indeed, had a following among those groups of readers, it also attracted readers of an unexpected mold, such as a stay-at-home mom in the suburbs of Kansas.
This is another reason for the book’s success; Luttrell’s captivating persona, as well as the unique story that he had to share, captured the hearts of more than just traditional readers of military memoirs. More than anything, it is probably the less conventional of readers that drove the book’s staying power.
Luttrell’s story, after all, is more than just the retelling of a few outbursts of machine gun fire. Beyond the obvious violence is also a story of hope and of the basic goodness of the human soul. While Luttrell lost his comrades to a renegade group of Taliban fighters, some of whom were undoubtedly of Afghan descent, it was through the help of a group of Afghan Pashtun villagers that he managed to find his way to safety. Even if it is stripped of its military embellishments, there is a great lesson that can be learned from it.