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Extended Audio Sample Sparta, by Roxana Robinson Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Roxana Robinson Narrator: Kirby Heyborn Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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“Sparta made young boys into warriors; it was left to the warriors to restore themselves to men…”

Conrad Farrell’s family has no military heritage, but as a classics major at Williams, he saw the sturdy appeal of the Marine ethic: Semper fidelis came straight from the ancient world, from Sparta, where every citizen doubled as a full-time soldier. When Conrad joined the Marines after college, he expected to further a long tradition of honor, courage, and commitment.

Now Conrad has just returned home to Westchester after four years in Iraq, and something is very wrong. Everything should be fine—he hasn’t been shot or wounded by an IED, and he’s never had psychological troubles—but as he attempts to reconnect with his girlfriend and find his footing in the civilian world, he has an impossible time adjusting to the people and places he used to love and to a commonplace life of hotel reservations, dinner conversation, long showers, and alone time. As the weeks turn into months, Conrad’s bitterness only festers, and he begins to fear that his rage, when it comes out, will have irreparable consequences.

Suspenseful and perceptive, Sparta captures the nuances of the unique estrangement that modern soldiers face as they attempt to rejoin the society they’ve fought for. With the powerful insight and acuity that marked Cost and her earlier novels, Robinson has delivered her best book yet.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Sparta is a feat of the imagination. Vividly and with unflinching wisdom, Robinson has given voice, substance, and profound reality to her protagonist Conrad Farrell of the Marine Corps—and in so doing to thousands of veterans like him.”

    Claire Messud, New York Times bestselling author

  • Sparta gives us an unflinching portrayal of the costs of war, costs that go far beyond what the tallies of killed and wounded can tell us. There are plenty of losses that can be measured only in the language of the spirit, and it’s books such as this one, necessary books, that guide us to a fuller appreciation of war’s costs.”

    Ben Fountain, New York Times bestselling author

  • “One of the many strengths of this engaging story is that Robinson doesn’t treat post-traumatic stress disorder with that nifty abbreviation, PTSD, neatly buttoning it in place. Instead, she shows us a more insidious, layered, and complex mix of debilitating psychological wounds.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “[A] page turner…Robinson’s fifth novel is an exceptional account of life after war.”

    People (4 stars)

  • “This slow, thorough, and utterly believable journey into Conrad’s mind has a dizzying effect, mostly due to Robinson’s artistic manipulations with language that make the everyday world seem suddenly strange—and scary.”

    O, The Oprah Magazine

  • “Powerful…[Robinson] is unsparingly forensic in her account of this proud ex-soldier’s tortured inability to readjust to civilian life…[Sparta’s] force lies in its level of bared psychological detail. Without becoming strident or pushy, it sounds an alarm for an invisible American crisis.”

    Wall Street Journal

  • “A tour de force…Sparta is a novel with a mission—which in lesser writer’s hands could spell its doom. But Robinson manages to convey the difficulties of a warrior returning to society and dramatize how we fail our veterans without reducing her story to a polemic. She pulls this off by expertly deploying three literary weapons: emotional insight, moral nuance, and intellectual depth…Robinson brings the tolls of war up close…Her explanation of the mishandled early missions in Fallujah and the clash between the long-ruling minority Sunnis and the majority Shiites is as clear as any I’ve read…But it’s Robinson’s portrait of the Veterans Affairs system that is most devastating…Robinson demonstrated her deftness in handling the dynamics of a family under duress in Cost…Robinson’s powerful novel demonstrates that fiction actually can function as a sort of explosive device.”

    Washington Post 

  • “Compelling and sensitive.”

    More magazine

  • “Certainly, Robinson has done her research…[She] cares deeply about war and its fallout…Sparta will teach us what we should know.”

    Philadelphia Inquirer

  • “Robinson’s diligently researched and profoundly realized tale of a warrior’s trauma and his family’s struggle to help him is a beautifully incisive, respectful, suspenseful, and indicting drama of our failure to grasp the full toll of war.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “A detailed examination of the inner life of a Marine returning home after combat…Robinson brings us deep inside Conrad’s soul, and inside the suffocating despair and frustration that can stalk soldiers even when they are ostensibly out of harm’s way. By letting the reader live in Conrad’s skin, Robinson creates a moving chronicle of how we fail our returning troops.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Narrator Kirby Heyborne chronicles the return of marine Conrad Farrell after four years of service in Iraq. Unlike soldiers who are visibly wounded or suffer from PTSD, Farrell seems uninjured from his service—until he discovers just how different he now is from the civilian world he inhabits. Heyborne ably conveys Farrell’s emotions as he copes with changes ranging from adjustments of daily activities to changes in society. The result is a surprisingly compelling and realistic story. With the benefit of Heyborne’s vocal agility, the listener empathizes with Farrell even more keenly.”


  • “Robinson  pens a raw portrayal of soldiers returning from modern warfare, attempting to represent the complexity of the traumatic experience without neglecting the horrifying truth. Readers who appreciated Rodge Glass’s Dougie’s War will also be drawn to this novel.”

    Library Journal

  • A 2013 Washington Post Notable Book for Fiction
  • Winner of the 2014 Maine Literary Award for Fiction
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