Prayer at Rumayla: A Novel of the Gulf War

Prayer at Rumayla: A Novel of the Gulf War

4.4 19
by Charles Edward Sheehan-Miles

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Nineteen year-old Chet Brown arrived home from the Gulf War in the spring of 1991 and found that, for him, the war was only beginning. Betrayed by his friends and lover, ignored by his family, Brown travels across the country in search of meaning behind the horrors of his war.


Nineteen year-old Chet Brown arrived home from the Gulf War in the spring of 1991 and found that, for him, the war was only beginning. Betrayed by his friends and lover, ignored by his family, Brown travels across the country in search of meaning behind the horrors of his war.

Editorial Reviews

Gannett News Service

A new war novel – a bleak and disturbing remembrance of a past conflict that could contain intimations of the near future – has sprung up on an Internet publishing web site.

When it comes to war, sometimes even obscure fiction is more dead-on-target than the predictable flapdoodle of opinion pages.

Prayer at Rumayla is a scorching novel of the Gulf War, which America and allies fought with Iraq just over a decade ago after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the late summer of 1990. This first novel is a work of pure psychological conflict.

The protagonist is Chet Brown, an intelligent, reflective ammo loader on a 24th Infantry Division M1A1 tank among the many that punched through Iraqi lines with devastating effectiveness in Operation Desert Storm.

Author Charles Sheehan-Miles alternates a blistering narrative with a hybrid stream of consciousness style to produce an account of front-line combat in vast contradiction of the sanitized version the Pentagon produced for TV consumption in 1991.

Gone are the game-like “smart” bomb videos, computerized reconstructions of death, and bloodless explosion photos from thousands of feet in the air.

They are replaced with the gritty, sometimes depressing, sometimes exhilarating, dangerous daily existence of a man who finds that gore and killing in the short term don’t really bother him as much as he thought – but in the long run drive him crazy with guilt, remorse, and self-directed anger.

Before long, the reader realizes Chet Brown is Sheehan-Miles, that such incantation of intensity comes from living it.

The author, in interview, admits the book is a roman a clef: “Yes, the wartime experiences are pretty much how it happened.”

Sheehan-Miles, indeed, was in the war. His experienced have been profiled in several documentaries and articles, including the Discovery Channel’s “Inside the Kill Box: Fighting the Gulf War,” former CIA analyst Patrick Eddington’s “Gassed in the Gulf,” and the controversial May 2000 piece by Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker that detailed the post-ceasefire Battle of Rumayla.

Like many Gulf War troops, Chet Brown in the novel returns home from an exceedingly bloody experience to find adversity: his fiancée sleeping with his best friend, his Army colleagues who didn’t fight suspicious of his crusty demeanor. Worst of all, most Americans he meets believe it was all beer and skittles in the desert – a perfectly lovely adventure.

The reliable superiors he found in combat are replaced with sadistic and clueless morons – paper shufflers seeking to compensate for their wartime homeland status with bluster and intimidation.

Brown finds himself trapped in a downward spiral.

“I went through kind of a personal crisis after the war,” acknowledges the author. “It was because I did kill a number of people, after the war was officially over. I had to find a way to live with that. For me, it meant not to do it again.”

In real life, the author found a peacetime solution: honorable discharge in 1992 as a conscientious objector.

“I got nothing but support from most of my officers,” recalls Sheehan-Miles. “In terms of understanding, there was a significant contrast between those officers who had been in combat and those who hadn’t. It was a healing experience to write this. I did find it therapeutic.”

In the novel, Chet Brown finds an entirely different solution. It will not be recounted here.

Prayer at Rumayla is one of an increasing number of readable books that are self-published by Xlibris (a Random House partner) and other such firms. They used to be called “vanity houses.” In that format, the authors ordered a set number of books bound, paid big money, then usually found themselves mailing their works for free to friends and relatives along with holiday cards.

In the newest vogue, the author writes and edits the book, submits the manuscript, picks a format and cover, pays a reasonable fee, then retains all rights to the work as it is digitally stored. When someone orders a copy, that copy is printed, and shipped out, and the author gets a royalty. The books are then made available in online bookstores, and traditional bookstores that accept them.

As readers who follow current events are aware, American armed forced may soon find themselves back in the Persian Gulf. When President Bush warns that the war on terrorism will continue until wrongs are righted, many intelligence and military officials think of Iraq as the next “area of interest.”

“Prayer at Rumayla” could be déjà vu.

Seymour M. Hersh
...Honest and unsparing...a much-needed corrective about a much-misunderstood war.
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Suburban Sun-Gazette
The book's narrative is gripping...Sheehan-Miles has Army lingo and procedures down pat.
Lieutenant David Pierson
This is a must-read for those who have gone to war or have imagined that they want to.
Colonel, Author, Tuskers: An Armor Battalion in the Gulf War

Product Details

Cincinnatus Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.45(d)

What People are saying about this

Patrick G. Eddington
Highly recommended.
Former CIA Intelligence Analyst; Author: Gassed in the Gulf

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Prayer at Rumayla 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you are a Gulf War veteran, the impact of Prayer at Rumayla will be the shock of recognition. If you've never been to war, this book will help you begin to understand what war does to a person, and how difficult our Army, and our society make it for our young warriors to survive peace time. This is an important book, stunningly real, by one of the men who has been there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
KUDOS to Charles Sheehan-Miles on a wonderful piece of work. Prayer At Rumayla was a trip I didn't expect to take, but was real glad I did. The journey was fast paced, with real-life scenarios that will undoubtedly make readers think quite differently about Operation Desert Storm, and the war's brutal after-effects! The varying problems that the author brought to light will serve as a great example for those who dare to leap into the mind and heart of a suffering veteran. As a Gulf War Vet---- I thank Charles for writing such a powerful work. CONGRATULATIONS!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It isn't pretty, but it gives me what seems like a realistic view of what being in a war can do to men. It is a great story, showing the inner struggles of a man dealing with the difficulties of fighting in the Gulf war and returning home. nitty gritty stuff that I have never heard talked about before relating to war and what it is like. The book flows very easily, I looked forward to reading it every evening, and I couldn't wait to see how it would end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Prayer at Rumayla is the first spell binding book I have read in a long time! It kept me totally intrigued from cover to cover. If you have ever been in the military and especially in the Army, you will find this book very enlightening. The author tells it like it is, and spares no details. I look forward to any more books that Charles Sheehan-Miles may write.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a stunning and totally unpredictable book written in a style that keeps a reader engrossed from the start, with a shocking ending. I began reading it, and shortly found I was 180 pages into the story. The book is actually two very good stories in one, brilliantly written by the author to immediately wrench and hold your attention. A story of what happens when young soldiers are committed to battle, the inseparable bonding between all sharing the experience, how it differently affects those involved, and sometimes the aftermath. This partly fiction, partly non-fiction book tells what happened on the ground in Iraq from a tankers perspective, with all the antiseptic pushbutton video impressions of the Gulf War peeled away to reveal the brutality of warfare. I truly like a writing style in which the author provides enough detail to put oneself in the position of the main character, yet not so much as to become boring. I also thoroughly enjoyed how the character's thought process worked....going from one thought to the next that is so totally unexpected....and many times in a humorous direction. I highly recommend this very good book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very well written, being inside a sodier' s head is very disturbing but over all an amazing story
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unadulterated, raw reality. Pay close attention because THIS is what our country does to our soldiers on a daily basis. I really hope someone learns from this. This is what we drive our soldiers to. And it is SO wrong. They deserve better though they will never ask for it. They shouldn't have to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good read, though some parts about the war and tank operations were too detailed and boring, disrupting the flow of the story. The book addresses PTSD in a raw, honest manner like no other book I read before. It is filled with sadness, yet it is an important reminder of the profound loss of self that soldiers experience upon return. Just for that, it is worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The intense flow of this book is amazing. The author's ability to keep the storyline moving in such a manner that one will not want to put this book down. Being a fellow Desert storm Vet., I was able to put myself on the battelfield with Chet Brown, as well as come back stateside with him. An excellent read for anyone that wants to get a true feeling of what a combat soldier experiences not only during war, but more importantly, after the war, and for the rest of his/her life. I highly recommend this book, and anxiously await more writtings from Charles Sheehan-Miles.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This has given me a better understanding of what our soldiers go through. Not just at war but also servimg in the military.
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Amanda69 More than 1 year ago
It was okay not something I would read again.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm biased, since I served in the same unit as the author for Desert Storm. Despite a ragged writing style, the story was compelling as was the main character. Recommended reading for fans of military "fiction".
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This what i would imagine war would be like - the question is how do you intergrate back into normal life? I didn't like the end - terribly sad.