Reviewed by Terri Barnes (Author, Air Force wife)
Before I heard about Sarah Smiley’s latest book, I used the words of her title in a conversation about my new hometown, where my husband and I moved when he retired from active duty last year.
“We’re not from here,” I said, “but we got here as soon as we could.”
The next day I was introduced to Sarah’s new book, Got Here As Soon As I Could: Discovering the Way Life Should Be. It was not the first time Sarah’s words about her military life encapsulated my own. In her columns and books, she’s been doing it for years.
Sarah’s family and mine are separated by a few hundred miles and more than a decade. She found her forever home in Maine. Mine is in South Carolina. Her children are growing, and mine are grown.
Yet, we have much in common. We’ve both moved around a bit. We’re homefront veterans of multiple deployments. We’re military brats turned military wives and writers of the military experience.
Part of this experience is finding a home, choosing a place after a lifetime of having our place in the world chosen for us. Sarah and her husband, Dustin, live in Bangor, Maine, and plan to remain there after Dustin’s upcoming retirement. Some of the columns in Sarah’s new book pay homage to their adopted home state and the reasons they adopted it, but the book is more about the qualities of home than the location.
Like Sarah’s previous three memoirs, this one is told in excerpts from her syndicated column, drawn from her own life and the lives of her husband and three sons. Her other books are mostly about marriage, deployment, and parenting, all with a military flavor. She makes readers cry by baring her soul and her own insecurities. She makes them laugh out loud without resorting to punchlines or hyperbole. Sarah’s seamless writing and compelling stories are all here, but her focus has shifted. Her family has reached a turning point common to all military families, the transition into civilian life, but her book isn’t a “how to.” No tips here on choosing a forever home and putting down roots in five easy steps.
It’s a “hope to” for a nomadic culture seeking a sense of place. Sarah’s story of falling in love with Maine gives military families assurance that home is out there, waiting to welcome us after a lifetime of wandering.
She expresses the dilemma of those who have lived everywhere, yet are from nowhere: “Ironically, the one place that has ever really felt like home for me is the one place I can never actually call ‘home.’ I’ll never be a Mainer, always ‘from away.’”
Here, in my new corner of the world, the term is, “from off.” No matter how long we live here or how much we love it, we’ll always be from somewhere else. In spite of this poignant truth, Sarah’s stories indicated that the Smiley family can be at home in Maine, even if they’re not Mainers.
While reading Got Here as Soon as I Could — and you should read it — you may feel the attraction of Maine, because honestly Sarah makes it sound like a little slice of heaven. But her words hold more important attractions: love and marriage, a boy and his dog, neighborhood and family, a man and his coffee cup. This book is a celebration of the qualities and affinities with which a family can transform a strange town into a home, no matter where it is.
Get there soon.
About the Author:
In 2014, Sarah was awarded the American Legion Auxiliary’s prestigious national Public Spirit Award.
Sarah has been featured in Parade Magazine (Mother’s Day cover feature), The New York Times Magazine (“Confessions of a Military Wife“), O Magazine, GoodHousekeeping, Military Spouse Magazine (cover feature) and Newsweek.
About the Reviewer:
Terri Barnes is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life and is the special projects editor at Elva Resa Publishing.
A well-respected columnist, Terri is the writer and creator of the weekly Stars and Stripes column Spouse Calls, which first appeared in 2007. Now published in print editions worldwide and online, Spouse Calls serves as a voice for military spouses and families, through personal stories, incisive interviews, news analysis, and interaction with readers. Terri has been a member of the Washington, DC, press corps and has contributed to several other books about military life. Her work has appeared in Air Force/Army/Navy Times, The Huffington Post, and Books Make a Difference, as well as newspapers, magazines, and base publications in many of her adopted hometowns around the world.
Terri’s expertise in military life comes from long experience. Her father was a Vietnam veteran and career military man. She married her Air Force husband, Mark, in 1985. They have three (redheaded!!) children, Will, Jessie, and Wesley, born in military hospitals in Texas, Guam, and Arizona, respectively.
Terri is a cum laude graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, where she studied journalism. She and her military family have lived in eleven states, two foreign countries, and one U.S. territory.