about the book
A West Point grad, Rhodes Scholar, and Army Ranger recounts his unparalleled education in the art of war and reckons with the hard wisdom that only battle itself can bestow.
One haunting afternoon on Losano Ridge in Afghanistan, Captain Craig Mullaney and his platoon were caught in a deadly firefight with Al Qaeda fighters when a message came over the radio: one of his soldiers had been killed in action.
Mullaney's education had been relentlessly preparing him for this moment. The four years he spent at West Point and the harrowing test of Ranger School readied him for a career in the Army. His subsequent experience as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford couldn't have been further from the Army and his working class roots, and yet the unorthodox education he received there would be surprisingly relevant as a combat leader. Years later, after that unforgettable experience in Afghanistan, he would return to the United States to teach history to future Navy and Marine Corps officers at the Naval Academy. He had been in their position once, and he had put his education to the test. How would he use his own life-changing experience prepare them?
The Unforgiving Minute is the extraordinary story of one soldier's singular education. From a hilarious plebe's-eye view of the author's West Point experience to the demanding leadership crucible of Ranger School's swamps and mountains, to a two-year whirlwind of scintillating debate, pub crawls, and romance at Oxford, Mullaney's winding path to the battlegrounds of Afghanistan was unique and remarkable. Despite all his preparation, the hardest questions remained. When the call came to lead his platoon into battle and earn his soldiers' salutes, would he be ready? Was his education sufficient for the unforgiving minutes he'd face? A fascinating account of an Army captain's unusual path through some of the most legendary seats of learning straight into a brutal fight with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, The Unforgiving Minute is, above all, an unforgettable portrait of a young soldier grappling with the weight of his hard-earned knowledge while coming to grips with becoming a man.
"Craig Mullaney has lived every kind of American life—he has been a working-man's son, a prize scholar, a soldier—and what's come out of it is a classic memoir about what it means to be American. By marching so many terrains, he has covered the subjects central to every life: courage, pain, loyalty, honor, friendship, love and the tests any good life faces, year by year, minute by minute. He has also produced a page-turner, a brutally honest account of West Point life, the innocence-abandoned experiences of an American abroad at Oxford, and ultimately an indelible story of life and death on the battlefield. In words his squadmates might recognize, I recommend The Unforgiving Minute without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion."
- David Lipsky, contributing editor to Rolling Stone Magazine and author of the New York Times bestseller Absolutely American.
One of the most thoughtful and honest accounts ever written by a young Army officer confronting all the tests of life."
- Bob Woodward
"In this extraordinary book, Mullaney has taken the trouble to look very closely, and has had the courage to discover the limits to his own understanding. Readers will be fascinated to look over his shoulder."
- Washington Post
"Mullaney's keen eye for detail, lively narrative style, and capacity for self-reflection—unusual in many soldiers—make an old story new and gripping."
- Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School
"The Unforgiving Minute should be required reading for all who serve in the White House and Congress and for those who aspire to leadership. Read it. Twice."
- Paul Bucha, past president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society
"Weaving action and reflection, The Unforgiving Minute is fast-paced, entertaining, and rich with insight and wisdom. A great debut from a leader to watch."
- General Barry McCaffrey
"The Unforgiving Minute accurately captures what it is to prepare for the ultimate responsibility of leading soldiers in war.... Thoughtful, hilarious, gut-wrenching, and inspiring."
- Lieutenant General F.L. Hagenbeck
"Riveting...the almost cinematic scene is reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway, John Hersey, and Ring Lardner, owing to Mullaney's talents as a storyteller and astute observer of detail."
- Vanity Fair
"Keenly intelligent war memoir whose central question is, "What is a man?"... A philosophically ambitious account of coming to adulthood."
- Kirkus Reviews
"[The Unforgiving Minute] is one man's story, warmly and credibly told, and its focus is on the idealism that he brought to military service. In Captain Mullaney's mind there is no contradiction between loyally following orders and intelligently wondering what purpose those orders serve.... The Unforgiving Minute finds both suspense and pathos in the events that took place under its author's command. Its fierce climactic battle is recreated in searing detail. But what gives this memoir its impact isn't the external events that it describes. It's the inner journey of a man who is at first eager to learn as much as he can from service and scholarship. Later on he learns from his mistakes."
- Janet Maslin, The New York Times
- "The Battlefield Can Be an Unforgiving Teacher" (Janet Maslin, The New York Times; February 25, 2009)
- "'The Unforgiving Minute', Craig Mullaney's service" (Hal Donahue, Huffington Post; March 11, 2009)
- "Serving and writing with loyalty, honor and honesty" (Linda Brinson, Winston-Salem Journal; March 29, 2009)