Spirit Mission
By: Ted Russ
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Spirit Mission is one of the best books I have ever read or listened to. If I gave out starred reviews, Spirit Mission would get a starred review. The rhythmic pacing of this book hooks you in and doesn’t let you go. The story takes place during the late 80s when the main character was a cadet at West Point as well as in present day when the main character is a helicopter pilot and army officer.

Here’s the definition of Spirit Mission taken straight from the book:

A spirit mission, gentlemen, is an activity undertaken by cadets that is typically somewhat against regulations yet demonstrates qualities that the academy supposedly seeks to develop: audacity, teamwork, creativity, and mission focus. The successful accomplishment of a good spirit mission enhances the spirit not only of the cadets involved but also that of the whole Corps and the greater West Point community in general.

The definition of spirit mission sets the stage for this amazing book.

In present day, Lieutenant Colonel Sam Avery is a Chinook pilot deployed to Iraq. When he finds out that one of his former classmates from West Point has been kidnapped by ISIS, and help isn’t being provided, Avery puts everything on the line for an unauthorized spirit mission to save him. The trip could cost him his job and his freedom, but the bonds from West Point are so strong that Avery doesn’t care what could happen to him. He must save his friend. There’s no question.

But as the book progresses, Avery reflects on his time at West Point. We get to know Avery and his friends really well throughout the book. We meet the characters on the first day as they report to West Point, and we follow them until they graduate four years later. Each year the cadets are known by different names: plebes (freshman), yearlings (sophomore), cows (juniors), and firsties (seniors). Each year comes with more and more responsibility as the cadets learn the skills it will take to be an officer in the Army.

Throughout the four years, Avery and his classmates from the E-4 company partake in many adventurous spirit missions. The book is a fun ride as we go along for all the spirit missions that take place over the four years. As I made it through the book, I wondered if the author ever did the same spirit mission as a cadet. Was he writing from experience?

As a West Point graduate himself, Ted Russ writes based on his time as a cadet. As a firstie in real life, Russ took on the biggest spirit mission. That spirit mission could have ended horribly for him and his friends. I don’t know want to give away too much, but the same spirit mission he did in the 1980s took place in the book. And…it’s a pretty awesome.

Going into this book, I thought my favorite part would be the spirit mission to save his old classmate from ISIS. But I ended up loving the pacing of the flashbacks to West Point. You feel the love, the loss, and the accomplishments that Avery experiences as he ages throughout the book. For many, this will be the closest you’ll get to learning what it’s really like to go to West Point, and Russ writes in a way that he pulls you completely in the novel that you feel like you are there.

Russ’ rhythmic writing made this book one of the best books I have read. Count me in on the next book he writes.

You can buy the book here.

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