My family is not one of military stock. None of my relatives are veterans, and none of them are in Iraq. But we have a close friend who fought in Vietnam, and I fully appreciate the level of commitment and sacrifice required of our brave men and women who fight for our country.
When I heard about this collection of short stories written by first-time novelist Siobhan Fallon, I knew it was something I had to experience. Not only were the reviews excellent across the board, I felt it was my duty as an American to better understand the prices paid by our soldiers, their wives and families. Because Fallon is one of these wives, I knew I'd be getting the goods directly from the source.
Synopsis: In a series of loosely connected stories, all taking place in Fort Hood Texas, we are powerfully immersed into the lives of families that have dedicated themselves to the Iraqi war. One wife, newly married and without children, watches with horror as her Serbian war bride neighbor battles loneliness to the detriment of her young twins. Another wife suspects her overseas husband of adultery, but struggles with how she should deal with it. A soldier, wounded with a Purple Heart, returns home to a young wife he no longer knows. Another wife must deal with the death of her hero husband. Battling breast cancer, a wife and mother must bridge the gap with her estranged and angry teenage daughter, knowing that her husband, preoccupied with war concerns, will provide no support.
My thoughts: While all of these stories may sound like doom and gloom, each story has shards of hope embedded within. A whisper of a promise that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As a result, the topics were grave but it never felt too much to bear. It was almost enlightening in a way.
Yet Fallon does not sugar-coat the issues that plague our military families. War kills, year-long separations are isolating, wives raise children on their own, and must rely on other wives for support. Doubts creep in, perspectives change, and the transition from the constant threat of death to civilian triviality is a difficult one.
This perspective was introduced to us in the Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker. These stories take it a step further, putting us not only in the heads of our soldiers, but the women who stay back home and wait for them.
Emotionally charged, heart-breaking and realistic with rich, fluid prose, this is one every American should read.
A word about the audio production: I nearly giggled out loud when I saw that this audio was narrated by the incredible Cassandra Campbell. She is one of the prominent narrators in the business, my favorites being The School of Essential Ingredients and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. If you see her name on an audio, you are assured an amazing listening experience.
4.5 out of 5 stars