Saturday, July 21, 2012

Sharply-Drawn Characters Make The Soldier's Wife Compelling (Updated)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After six months of deployment in Afghanistan, Alexa Riley's husband is finally home.  Kind of.  Although Dan's obviously overjoyed to see his family again, he's ... different.  Distant.  Alexa knows she has to give him some space, let him ease back into normal life, but every day Dan spends cavorting with his Army buddies instead of with Alexa and the kids takes her closer to the brink.  She's not sure she can take it for another day—not her marriage and certainly not the rigid, Army-controlled life she's being forced to live.  

As 34-year-old Alexa struggles to find her way in a marriage that has suddenly become very lonely, she also has to deal (alone) with the day-to-day demands of her 3-year-old twins and her 12-year-old daughter, who's acting up at boarding school.  It's like her husband's still a world away.  To complicate matters, she's got a whole slew of family members watching her every move.  They're all rooting for the marriage to work, but Alexa's just not sure she can fix it.  It's up to her to decide what's more important—her husband's military career or the needs of herself and her children. 

You don't have to be a military wife to empathize with Alexa Riley.  Any woman, especially those who are also wives and mothers, will get the heroine of The Soldier's Wife by Joanna Trollope.  They may not like her (especially since she's kind of a selfish whiner), but they'll understand her conflicted feelings.  The story does get a little depressing—overall, though, I think it's a realistic, affecting and, overall, hopeful depiction of life in a military family.  One thing the novel brings out really well is that only those who have been through it really understand what it's like to live through a deployment.  It's easy for outsiders to look at a military "widow," and say, "Why is she complaining about her husband leaving all the time?  Didn't she know what she was getting into when he enlisted?"  The answer to that question, according to Trollope, is no.  Even if you have some idea, you don't have the whole picture until you've lived through it yourself.  This theme, along with Trollope's vivid characterization (Dan's dad and grandpa are especially endearing), made The Soldier's Wife a compelling and thought-provoking read.  

(Readalikes:  The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs)

Grade:  B

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for strong language

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Soldier's Wife from the generous folks at Simon & Schuster via Tribute Books.  Thank you!

5 comments:

  1. Well I am sitting here trying to get used to my husband being home from deployment, so I may have to give this one a try!

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    1. The book definitely made me think of you. It's kind of depressing, but if you want it, I'd be glad to send it your way-—since you're my sister and all :)

      P.S. You just made me think of something I forgot to mention in my review. Editing it NOW.

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  2. This sounds like the type of book I wouldn't actually go out and seek but if I ever stumbled on to it, I'd have a hard time putting down.

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  3. Susan, thanks for the review.

    And I'm sure Joanna would be glad that you're sharing her book with your sister - who is a true soldier's wife.

    Jenny, I hope you get a chance to check it out as well.

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  4. Thanks. Yeah send it my way. I often think a deployment is like a pregnancy, everyone tells you what it is going to be like,but it is different for everyone. Yes, you know that you are going to have a baby, but you don't know what your experience will be. Just like deployments. Just glad this deployment is over (:

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