‘Rogue One’ Plays it Safe. But ‘Clone Wars’ Took Chances

[Contains spoilers]

Two weeks ago, I saw Rogue One in the theater with two of my kids. The theater was packed; excitement was high. One guy brought his dog. Folks clapped and whistled when the opening credits started. Even when the projector broke down halfway through the film, causing a thirty-minute delay, people were cheerful; we all got up for more popcorn and drinks and returned for the rest of the film, and the guy next to me unwrapped a gigantic, oily, meat-filled sub sandwich he’d smuggled in from somewhere and ate it, with a wink at me like “Look what I got away with,” and the whole thing took so long that by the time it was over we all felt like we had been though something together.

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So that was all good and well. The kids and I returned home at midnight in a driving snow, and they liked the movie and they were happy. (Which is kind of weird, considering how incredibly grim parts of it were, but it ended on a well-played high note that had classic Star Wars fans lapping out of the director’s [Gareth Edwards’] hands.)

But in the days since, I’ve heard almost nothing but praise for Rogue One. And that is fine — I’m not in this business to dampen anybody’s joy. But I’m hearing people say they thought Rogue One was dark, “meta,” current in its referencing of international conflict and quasi-terrorist warfare. They’re saying they’ve never seen this side of Star Wars before. But an alternative Star Wars ethos and storyline has existed for nearly a decade, and I think whatever space-hotdish Rogue One has served up looks flabby and insipid in comparison to its much more subversive, much more moving, and far more entertaining predecessor: the Clone Wars animated series.

[Let me clear this up now: I am talking about the Clone Wars television show, not the movies: those almost-universally-despised Episodes I, II, and III, directed and written by George Lucas in an orgy of ridiculous computer-generated imagery, with Canadian Mullet Anakin and sad, weeping, dead-in-her-freaky-childbirth-cage Padme. I am talking about a cartoon — can’t believe I just wrote that — yes, a kids’ cartoon that aired on the Cartoon Network for six seasons, from 2008 to 2014. And before this knowledge alone sends you packing, please meet me halfway by acknowledging the long artistic history of embedding some of our strongest subversive messages in childrens’ literature and film, and in cartoons and drawn images.]

I am not talking about this:

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(They had Olan Mills photography on Coruscant!)

I’m talking about this!:

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Clone Wars Season 5, Ahsoka and Anakin

Now, I’ve blabbed on about the Clone Wars series for years to anyone who’ll listen, like a nut job on a wooden crate in a town square. My demographic — thirtysomething suburban women — is not really the ideal place to voice such obscure and dorky passions, though I will occasionally swing through Facebook screeching about the show’s value at some innocent virtual-bystander and then shrink back in horror at myself, as well I should.

And I should make it clear that if it were not for my own children, raised on Star Wars like it was Flintstones vitamins, I would probably never have sat down to watch Clone Wars at all. Their love for it has certainly affected me, as has the fact that my 11-year-old daughter and I watched all six seasons over one winter, one night after another, 7 nights a week, until we finished the whole series. It was a lot of fun to share that with her, so I’m sure this plays into my love for the show, too.

But I stand by my assertion that Clone Wars does something no part of the Star Wars canon has done before or since– yes, I said “since,” and I am looking at you, Rogue One. Clone Wars looks inside American culture, and the recent American wars, in particular, with a harsher judgment, a tougher sense of complicity and even guilt than Rogue One — in its sloppy mire of tropes and action scenes — can muster.

— Clone Wars Basics: When, Where, and Why

The Clone Wars series takes place in the brief span of time between Episodes II and III. For those who know Star Wars, that alone makes it interesting. This time period has a very different sense of evil than most casual viewers are accustomed to in Star Wars. Whereas the evil in the original episodes is very clear — a stomping, hyperventilating, despot-in-his-heyday evil — it is much more diffuse in the Clone Wars.

It’s an evil that is gathering in a way even the Jedi can’t predict. They do not know that their closest allies, the Clones — created to be an army willing to fight and die without a second thought for the lives of their Jedi — have been secretly corrupted. They’ve been implanted with a chip that will cause them, at a specified time, to betray their Jedi all at once — and to think it’s the Jedi who are betraying them — and follow the Sith lords, primarily Darth Sidious.

— But it’s a Cartoon; How Dark Can it Be?

 

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The bombed Jedi temple in Clone Wars

There is much to appreciate about Clone Wars, from its terrific graphics (especially in later seasons) to the way it revitalizes characters you thought you knew and had already dismissed. (Weepy, chemistry-of-a-potato Natalie-Portman-Padme has been changed into a smart, savvy Senator whose devotion to intergalactic diplomacy and alien-and-human-rights takes precedence over her marriage to needy man-child Anakin, though even he is oddly likable here.)

I would love to go into Clone Wars’ more fanciful aspects — like the whole storyline where His Royal Space-British-ness, Obi-wan Kenobi, gets to inhabit (literally!) the body of a tough-talkin,’ tattooed, incarcerated bounty hunter — a changeup so delightful no one could have seen it coming.

But I don’t have all day here, and neither do you, so let me get to the punch: If you think Rogue One is dark, you simply haven’t seen Clone Wars. And unlike Rogue One, Clone Wars won’t let you morally off the hook.

-You Will Not Be Let Off This Hook.

In Clone Wars, the Separatists (bad guys) have upped the ante. The Jedi, though struggling to maintain their code, are growing increasingly desperate. They begin to sanction forms of guerrilla warfare and aid underground fighters (such as the young, pre-cyborg Saw Gerrera — he’s one of the few Clone Wars characters who was brought into Rogue One — and his sister, Steela). The cost to civilians caught in the crossfire is clearly shown.

There are direct and timely references to terrorism, such as a fatal bombing in the Jedi temple hangar — basically a VBIED; can you get more timely than that? The attack — with fatalities — is initially blamed on a maintenance worker, whose name, Jackar Bowmani, manages to transcend your usual space-gibberish with its potentially non-western undertones.

But it’s the storyline of the Clones that I find most timely and — I’m not even embarrassed to say this — most moving about the Clone Wars. The Clones’ arc is not only superbly done, but it feels to me, at every turn, like a direct commentary on the War on Terror, the culture of warfighters, and the tragedy of the military-civilian divide.

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Captain Rex

— Yeah. What’s So Great About the Clones, Weirdo?

When writing began on the Clone Wars in 2007, the US was still heavily involved in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 2007 was the year of the “surge” and also the deadliest for American soldiers, and there was no end in sight.

While civilians remained at home facing their own not-unwarranted, but vague fears, a tiny fraction of the 1% who served in the military were riding in the bellies of cargo planes, off to face actual danger. Long before Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk brought the military-civilian divide home (and longer still before “military-civilian divide” became a household phrase) the Clones of Clone Wars lived a lifestyle of harsh chosenness.

It’s the clones who do the bulk of the fighting (and killing) that the Jedi, per their code-of-the-elect, could not always do.

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The clones start out as mere servants, unquestioningly obedient to their Jedi commanders. They will go anywhere they are sent; they will die willingly. Because of their programming, they endure accelerated aging that their human masters do not. This is all moving, I guess, to the extent that one could be moved by, say, a robot, or maybe Where the Red Fern Grows. (Okay, that book is pretty damn moving.)

But then the Clones begin, gradually, to develop a sort of true consciousness. They start to differentiate themselves. Instead of being called by their numbers — CT-7567 for Rex, for example — they begin, amongst themselves, calling each other by nicknames. CT-27-5555, for example, becomes “Fives.” There’s Tup, and Hevy, and Echo.

Then they begin to differentiate themselves with tattoos, and even hair. (Tup gives himself a little prison-style teardrop under one eye, and starts wearing a man-bun. Dogma tattoos a mosaic of burgundy shapes across his face, forming a large V over one eye and his forehead.) Rex even gets creative with his own armor and helmet, welding pieces of old armor to new.

They show compassion for others, even outside of battle! We see them lounge around in their red pajamas!

Clone Wars spends a lot of time with its Clones, to the point where I’d cringe every time they went into battle and become quite irate with generals who gave them reckless commands. The loss of Clones, which initially seems to serve a larger purpose, begins to feel wasteful and even tragic. Even the Clones themselves start to analyze some of the battles they’re sent into, and to realize that they are being sacrificed. “Live to fight another day, boys,” says Hardcase, because that’s all they can do.

One of the most fascinating episodes, “The Deserter” (Season 2, Episode 10) features a former Clone soldier named Cut who is discovered living on a remote planet with his “native” wife and adorable mixed-species children. Disgusted with killing for a living, he’s now a farmer. Captain Rex, troubled by this discovery, tries to convince Cut that leaving the Army was a betrayal of his brothers and his duty. The show might have decided to paint Cut as a coward, but later in the episode he saves Rex’s life in an ambush. Having seen Cut’s happiness in his new, peaceful life, Rex decides not to turn him in, though he declines Cut’s offer to stay, saying, “My family is elsewhere.”

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Who would not want to stay with this hot Twi’lek wife and charming little kids?!

Okay. So that’s kind of heavy stuff, right, for a kids’ cartoon? I mean, afterwards, I had a discussion with my children about whether or not Cut was a traitor. What if the military had asked their daddy to do something he believed was truly wrong? Would his duty be to stay in, or seek refuge with his family? [For the record I should insert here that my husband would STAY IN. This is all hypothetical, in case Uncle Sam is watching.] [That is a fantasy; three people read this blog.]

Things get even heavier when one Clone, “Slick,” not only leaves the Army but defects. “It’s the Jedi who keep my brothers enslaved,” he says. “We do your bidding. We serve at your whim. I just wanted something more.”

Wait — what?! The Jedi, keeping their army enslaved? This goes against anything from Episodes IV, V, or VI. The Jedi are the good guys, right? I mean, if they’re fighting for truth, justice, and the Jedi-American way, how can they be wrongly-using anyone?

With all this humanity given to the Clone Army, by the time some of their implanted chips (the ones that’ll cause them to betray the Jedi) start to trigger early, and you watch the Clones agonize over what is happening to them, thinking they are losing their minds, becoming paranoid — well, it’s heartbreaking. They’re not losing their minds! They’ve been used! The parallels here for post-traumatic stress, or Gulf War syndrome, could fill an entire essay. But what I know is that the Clones’ distress is so well-done, so moving, that when the most tormented and aware among them meets his sad fate, I sat and cried a big fat tear. This completely freaked out my daughter. “Mom….are you okay?” she said.

Yeah, yeah. I was fine. But I’d been rattled by a cartoon.

— Now Back to Rogue One.

In comparison to Clone Wars, Rogue One dishes up most of the same ol’ Star Wars philosophy: If you’ve lost someone you love, you can spend the rest of your life on a hellbent bender-for-justice, a la Braveheart. There is nothing more profound than to sacrifice yourself for the cause. Even though one’s tactics may be suspect, there is an essential truth and goodness that always remains the same.

This is all perfectly fine, but while Rogue One may suggest that some methods are suspect, it never insinuates that the Jedi could be suspect. It stops far, far short of that. In fact, it continues the philosophy of Republic supremacy. Nothing revolutionary to see here.

I have other quibbles, such as the extreme visual blandness of the film — it’s sort of like the horrible Matrix II and III, where they’re stuck in space but everybody’s lost their sense of humor and they can only wear earth tones and cry all the time — and its utter lack of attention to non-human species, which is a sentence I cannot believe I just wrote but, there you go: and I stand by it, too. In the original Star Wars, no matter how campy and silly it got, at least it was fun. Sometimes that fun is spot-on — think Mos Eisley Cantina –and sometimes it veers into the realm of near-torture, like Jar-Jar Binks. At its best — as with Clone Wars’ Ahsoka Tano — the non-humans are given exciting, rich storylines that cause you to forget they’re not even people. Rogue One is so thoroughly populated by humans that when some puppet does pop into the screen it’s jarring and goofy. They feel inserted.

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As Rogue One draws to a close, and [spoiler!] everybody is dead, it’s hard to know what to take from the story. That a death for one’s ideals is a noble one? Sure, I’ll go along with that, but since the notion of me, myself, blogger Andria, getting into a situation where I had to die for any cause sounds so far-fetched, I’m not really pressed to think about it.

But me, supporting a system that’s started to grow corrupt to meet its ends? Or me, cheerleading a diffuse and nebulous war out of some sense of loyalty or obligation? Or me, letting other people do mine, and my country’s, dirty work? That sounds like something that could happen, or may have happened, or may be happening. That sounds like something I might want to think about.


For a humorous and entertaining take on why Clone Wars is so great, I agree with everything The Cosmonaut Variety Hour has to say. And it’ll make you laugh. But there’s casual cursing, so it is not for young kids.

And for a more serious read, the brilliant and occasionally-infuriating Roy Scranton wrote an essay in the NY Times that inspired my train of thought on this topic in the first place. It’s definitely worth your time.

From the Discard Pile

by Terri Barnes (Air Force)

It was part of a pile of books left in a cardboard box outside the door of my son’s elementary school library. A sign on the box said, “Free to a good home.” Apparently, the shelves were being purged of old books, perhaps to make room for the latest shiny new paperbacks from the book fair. When I showed up for volunteer duty, I saw it lying among the rejects, a hardcover copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson.

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Deemed expendable at the library, it is a treasure to me. I had been reading my paperback copy for years, so I am happy to have the hardback version, even a tattered one. Each one of its faded green end papers is stamped “DISCARD,” in large block letters, as if marking it once was not enough. The pages are stained and worn, and I hope that’s because they’ve been turned by many eager and possibly grubby little fingers.

For me, it’s worth reading again every Christmas, the story of the Herdmans, six unruly brothers and sisters who show up at Sunday School because they heard there were free cookies. To the chagrin of some and the confusion of others, the riotous tribe ends up snagging all the starring roles in the annual Christmas pageant.

The narrator is a young girl who knows firsthand the terrors inflicted by these infamous siblings, whom most in their small town consider irredeemable.

“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world,” she says. “They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and they talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the Lord’s name in vain.” They were also known for setting things on fire. For the pageant the flames are metaphorical – mostly – though the town’s firefighters do show up at the dress rehearsal.

In The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, the Herdmans encounter the biblical story of Christmas for the first time. They have no preconceived ideas about holiness, or euphemistic images of well-groomed cattle in a clean-smelling stable. When Imogene Herdman hears for the first time that “there was no room at the inn,” she shouts out:

“My God! Not even for Jesus?”

Imogene and her siblings encounter a church full of people with plenty of preconceived ideas about who is clean and holy enough to share in the story of Jesus or take part in depicting it. These people, sure of their place, their standing in the hierarchy of local piety, know the Herdmans don’t belong. The truth is stamped all over their dirty faces, their ill-fitting clothes, and untamed behavior. The Herdmans don’t know the rules for church conduct, the words to the songs, or even the basics of the Nativity.

“You would have thought the Christmas story came right out of the FBI files, they got so involved in it,” says the young narrator. “(They) wanted a bloody end to Herod, worried about Mary having her baby in a barn, and called the wise men a bunch of dirty spies.”

Maybe the Herdmans didn’t know they were unlikely Christmas pageant cast members, or maybe they just didn’t care. At first they came for the snacks. They stayed because they were captivated by the story and its mystery, a quality overlooked by those who had heard it all their lives.

The Herdmans horned their way in to the re-telling of the story of Jesus and inadvertently became part of the story themselves. It never would have happened if it had been up to the majority of the church congregation. But then, if it had been up to the local congregations in ancient Bethlehem, a group of poor transients who lived among smelly animals would probably not have been on the guest list for the celebration of Christ’s birth. As it happened, the inviting wasn’t left up to the congregations in either story. Unlikely people are part of the story that changed history, and that’s kind of the point. For the shepherds and for the Herdmans. For all of us.

In Barbara Robinson’s book, the church people who were willing saw their pageant and Christ’s story with new eyes. Those who weren’t willing remained blinded by their self-satisfied and pointless version of the holiday. They forgot the reason for Christmas pageants, the reason for Christmas: to redeem lives, to redeem stories from the discard pile.

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 Terri Barnes is a third-generation military wife and mother of three. She founded and wrote the popular “Spouse Calls” column for Stars and Stripes until last year. The column was so well-liked that it was made into a book

Veterans and Military Spouses Recommend: Their Best Reads of 2016 (Third and Final Installment!)

Kerri-Leigh Grady (Navy spouse)

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“This year had some really great books, but these two really stood out. I was worried about Joe Hill’s The Fireman—he’s one of my fave authors because of Horns, but NOS4A2 disappointed me—but I shouldn’t have been concerned. It’s a beautiful book about a fungus infecting humanity, killing millions with spontaneous combustion, uniting the monstrous against those trying to survive. Crazy, right? Crazy awesome.

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And then there was N.K. Jemison’s The Fifth Season. This book, man. It reveals a post-apocalyptic Earth, when the tectonic plates have broken like whoa, and humanity only continues to survive thanks to the enslaved orogenes, a caste of humans who have evolved the ability to calm the Earth below…or raise it up against a threat. There’s so much to this book, y’all. You have to read it. And then you have to petition Hollywood for a movie. Because volcanoes and pirate ships and gem obelisks floating in the sky and motherlovin’ stone-eaters, y’all.

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Kerri-Leigh Grady is the author of the “fast-paced, laugh-out-loud” romance The Right Kind of Guy. Learn more about her writing and reading — and enjoy her witty, unfettered humor — on her web site.

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Kathleen Rodgers (Air Force wife, Army mom)

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“I highly recommend Elizabeth Marro’s debut novel, Casualties. It’s a compelling and convincing read about a successful defense contractor and the trauma she faces shortly after her only son returns from combat. This book shines the spotlight on the dark underbelly of the defense industry.

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Every once in a while, a voice comes along that makes you yearn for a childhood you never lived. Drema Hall Berkheimer’s memoir, Running On Red Dog Road, invites you to skip along with her, big sis Vonnie, and best friend Sissy into the coal mining hills and hollers of West Virginia, at a time when gypsies and hobos were as common as doctors who made house calls.”

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Kathleen Rodgers is the author of three novels. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, has won multiple awards including the 2015 Gold Medal for literary fiction from Military Writers Society of America. Seven Wings to Glory is forthcoming April 1, 2017.

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Tracy Crow (Marine veteran)

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Like Jerri, I spent a huge chunk of this year reading memoirs and histories about women veterans for our forthcoming book. But here we go….

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. I didn’t want to like this book. I don’t believe in establishing rules for writers because as soon as we break a rule we heap on more guilt. And my 2016 has been about developing a zero-guilt attitude. If I write every day, wonderful. If I skip a day, I forgive. No guilt! And the same applies to chocolate cookies and cheesecake. But I actually loved this book. I love her premise that it’s actually unfair to expect our passion to financially support us.

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And throughout this year I read dozens and dozens of books on spirituality. Everything from Thich Nhat Hanh to self-published books on Human Design to Marianne Williamson’s take on A Course in Miracles to embracing our sovereignty in Jill Renee Feeler’s Stepping Into The Platinum Age.

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But I took a breather with a delightful memoir about rescuing, of all things, hummingbirds! Who knew, right? So when this winter has you dreaming of spring and the return of the hummingbirds, why not indulge yourself with a read of Fastest Things on Wings: Rescuing Hummingbirds in Hollywood by Terry Masear. Call it ‘research!’

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Tracy Crow is a Marine veteran and the author of Eyes Right: Confessions from a Woman Marine; the military conspiracy thriller, An Unlawful Order, under her pen name, Carver Greene, and the true story collection, Red, White, & True: Stories from Veterans and Families, WWII to Present.  It’s My Country, Too!: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan (coauthored with Jerri Bell) is forthcoming in March 2017.

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Have a wonderful holiday season, everyone, and a happy, happy new year ! – Andria

Veterans and Military Spouses Recommend: Their Best Reads of 2016 (Part 2)

Kayla Williams (Army veteran; director of the VA’s Center for Women Veterans)

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The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: “an intricate, imaginative, compelling work that explores issues of gender, race, parenthood, and humanity with an unusual combination of compassion and unflinching honesty. I’m recommending to folks who like sci-fi, want to read more works by women of color, are interested in how to survive major societal upheaval, and don’t need clean answers.”

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“Can I do a kids’ book, too?,” Williams asked, rather endearingly (Yes! – Editor), and suggested this:

Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed:  “a love story between a practical pig and a free-spirited elephant that will bring joy to children and surprise adults with the poignancy of its subtle rumination on loss and life.”

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Kayla Williams is the director of the VA Center for Women Veterans. She is also the author of two acclaimed books, Love My Rifle More Than You and Plenty of Time When We Get Home.

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Jane Blair (Marine Corps veteran)

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The Horse Latitudes by Matthew Robinson takes a very fresh voice on writing about the Iraq war and his experiences serving there.
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The Sympathizer, by Viet Thanh Nguyen, is another fiction must read, told from the perspective of communist double agent in the military. It is arguably one of the best-written books in the last several years and is a page turner.”

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Jane Blair is the author of the “riveting” Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq.

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Lauren Halloran (Air Force Veteran)

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown

Recommended for sports fanatics, history buffs, suckers for inspirational underdog stories

The Boys in the Boat is not a book about rowing; it’s a portrait of an era, a coming-of-age story, and a triumph of character. If you liked Michael Lewis’ The Blindside or Moneyball, you’ll love this merger of sports, science and history. Take nine working class boys from the Pacific Northwest–one in particular who’s low on family and prospects but high on heart–against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Add a fascinating look at the rise of the Nazi party and their propaganda strategy. Throw in technical craftsmanship that changed the art of the rowing shell, a tough-love coach, an against-all-odds ascent above classicism and media bias–and ultimately the 1936 Berlin Olympics. As a Seattle native I enjoyed the regional history, but this book is far larger than the University of Washington crew team. Regardless of where you’re from, you’ll come away with tremendous respect for the sport of rowing and faith in the power of the human spirit.

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A Fort of Nine Towers: An Afghan Family Story
by Qais Akbar Omar

Recommended for students of history or war, romantics, poets

I was enchanted by this memoir of growing up in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation, Mujahedin and Taliban rules, and initial American invasion. Qais Akbar Omar is quickly thrust from carefree boy flying kites from his grandfather’s roof to  young man helping his family survive in the midst of a growing, ever-shifting war zone. The world needs more “insider” stories like this, and the content alone will grab you, but Omar’s storytelling and poetic style will charm you. Through his eyes we witness the atrocities of war up close, but also hope and beauty. Part family story, part sweeping history and folklore, part travelogue, this book will at once change the way you think about Afghanistan and resonate deep in your soul.

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Lauren Halloran has essays in the recently-published Retire the Colors as well as The Road Ahead and It’s My Country, Too!


Jerri Bell (Navy veteran)

(I really enjoyed Jerri’s thoughtful writeup here. She may have gone beyond two books, but that is what I expect from Jerri.  🙂 Her tribute to poet Ilyse Kunetz is especially moving, as is her attention to recent poetry in general, which I aim to read more of. – Editor)

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Jerri is third from the left

“I spent the first half of 2016 re-reading scholarly work on American military women, and scrabbling through women veterans’ memoirs, letters, journals, and other documents so co-author Tracy Crow and I could finish the manuscript of It’s My Country Too: Women’s Military Stories from the American Revolution to Afghanistan. After all that nonfiction, I needed a change of scenery. Like poetry. Here are two great collections:

Paul Klee’s Boat, by Anzhelina Polonskaya (translated by Andrew Wachtel). Five of Polonskaya’s poems, in translation, appeared in the summer issue of Pleiaides, and I was hooked by the way she packs emotional punch in spare language and vivid images. Having been on assignment in Russia when the submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea with all hands lost, I particularly appreciated the sequence KURSK: AN ORATORIO REQUIEM. Paul Klee’s Boat, a side by side dual-language collection, allows readers of Russian to enjoy both the oral elegance of Polonskaya’s original Russian and Wachtel’s deft, intelligent translation.

At a “war writers’ dinner” at a conference in Minneapolis, I chatted for an hour with Ilyse Kusnetz without realizing she was a prize-winning poet. She introduced herself as an English teacher in a college, and she spoke lovingly of her students’ insights into literature and her admiration for her colleagues. For an entire hour, she never said one word about her own writing. A year later, her husband Brian Turner invited friends to read her essay “The Secret Kiss” in Guernica’s “Kiss” series. I was devastated to learn that she had end-stage, terminal cancer. Her poem “Harbinger,” published a month later in Rattle , felt like a punch in the gut.

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I grabbed a copy of her prize-winning collection Small Hours a few days later, and have been reading and re-reading it. Ilyse left us in body on September 13, but her spirit continues to deliver new, small, unexpected gifts in her writing. Turner recently announced that he’s publishing a second collection of her poems. I’ll be pre-ordering.

Fiction is my favorite form of escape, and three military thrillers by Navy veterans did not disappoint. Jeffrey Hess’ Beachhead  is a gritty, gravelly, and laugh-out-loud funny noir novel with a protagonist who wouldn’t be out of place in a bar with Mike Hammer and Sam Spade. Anne A. Wilson’s exciting, helicopter-centric novels will delight aviation aficionadoes without losing the lay reader in the rotors and levers. Clear to Lift , set in the Sierra Nevadas, combines derring-do, search and rescue, and steam in secluded hot springs. Kathleen Toomey Jabs’ debut novel Black Wings , based loosely on the 1994 death at sea of aviator Kara Hultgreen, features crisp writing, vivid descriptions of life for women at the US Naval Academy just a few years after integration, and a surprising but satisfying ending. Both of the latter novels feature Navy women as protagonists: unconventional women in unconventional situations.

Brian Castner’s book All the Ways We Kill and Die: An Elegy for a Fallen Comrade, and the Hunt for His Killer  reads like a military thriller, but it is serious nonfiction: both a tribute to a lost friend and a thoughtful consideration of the ways in which modern warfare has become shockingly personal. Castner’s sentences are masterpieces; his understanding of suspense and story structure kept me up with the book until the wee hours and in my pajamas until the afternoon of the next day. I simply could not put it down until I read the last word. It was the best nonfiction book I’ve read in several years, and my pick for best book in any genre that I read in 2016.”

Jerri Bell is co-author (with Tracy Crow) of the forthcoming book It’s My Country, Too!: Women’s Military Stories from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan. I have mine pre-ordered; you can too.

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Terri Barnes (Air Force Spouse)

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“We recently moved to the Charleston, South Carolina, area, and this year some of the most memorable books I have read happen to be by local authors, a happy coincidence that I didn’t realize until now.

Bret Lott is a Southern transplant like me, a professor at the College of Charleston, who is perhaps best known for his novel, Jewel. I read a more recent collection of his essays, Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, On Being a Christian. His thoughts on how even the most creative processes are rooted in experience resonated with me, as a writer and a journalist. He writes:

‘(W)hen something we have seen or done or felt or been told … strikes us in such a way that we want to turn to an expressive form to try to create after it, there has to have been something inside that original moment worthy of our imagination, worthy of that snagging of our creative impulse. I believe there has to have been some there there that makes us turn to an act of creation after having experienced that moment.’

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The other South Carolina writer I encountered – by finding the book in a Little Free Library in my neighborhood – is Sue Monk Kidd. I finally read The Secret Life of Bees, and I certainly wondered why I waited so long. I expected a coming of age story, and it is, but I didn’t expect it to be so much about forgiveness, love and the persistence required for both. It’s a beautiful book. After reading it, I went back through and copied favorite passages into my journal. This book also reinforces the importance of telling stories, a concept every writer loves to hear. One of the characters in the book, August, says:

‘Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.’

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Reading The Secret Life of Bees gave me a craving for honey … and more beautifully written books!”

Terri Barnes is a military spouse of 31 years and the author of Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life. She was the author of the very popular Stars and Stripes column of the same name since 2007, retiring just last year. Of her book, she has written: “My hometown isn’t a geographical location, but a place in American culture that is invisible to many people. My family lives in the hometown of military installations and military communities.”

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Rebekah Sanderlin (Army spouse)

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“My favorite reads this year: ‘Burdy‘ – by Karen Spears Zacharias. I couldn’t wait to read this book because it’s the sequel to Zacharias’ amazing, award-winning “Mother of Rain” and, if anything, ‘Burdy’ is even better than the first book. Both are set in a post-WWII Appalachia and the dialects and habits of the characters remind me so much of my own Appalachian relatives. ‘Burdy’ is a deeper dive into the story of a Melungeon healer who is something of an oddity and outcast in her community. Both books would be great gifts for anyone who is interested in Appalachian culture, or who just loves Southern literature.

As a side note, Zacharias is a Gold Star daughter who has written extensively on military and veteran issues. Her father was KIA in Vietnam.

burdy

I took a big, bucket-list, trip to South Africa this year and wanted to read something to get me in the mood for the trip, so I bought J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace,’ which won the Booker prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature when it was published in 1999 — then I got too busy and didn’t read it until after the trip. No matter, it’s an absolutely gorgeous book that I would have loved just as well if I’d never set foot in South Africa. The story explores a white, middle-aged college professor’s attempts to grapple with his own failings, against a backdrop of racial unrest. It would make an excellent gift for anyone who loves literary fiction or is interested in present-day South Africa.

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I can’t remember when someone first told me I should read Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With a Thousand Faces‘ but I’m pretty sure at least 100 other people told me to read it after that person. I ignored them all. Finally, this year I bought a copy and it took me most of the year to pick my way through it. This is not a light read. At all. Campbell took several years off from life and spent them as a hermit, reading pretty much everything that existed on philosophy, psychology, mythology and religion. He overlapped and compared all of the world’s insights and traditions to come up with a framework for what makes a character a hero and the elements that exist in every good story. You might not get thanked for giving someone this book, but if they ever get around to finishing it, the writers and deep thinkers in your life may credit you with helping to change their entire worldview.

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Rebekah Sanderlin has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN.com, The Huffington Post, PBS.org, and more. Learn about her work at rebekahsanderlin.com.


Tenley Lozano (Coast Guard veteran)

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“This past summer, I spent six weeks backpacking and car camping in Western Washington with my dog. We would hike during the day, then set up camp in the early afternoon and relax. During those quiet moments in camp, I listened to audiobooks while my dog napped. Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, read by the author herself, held my attention during many long afternoons in Olympic National Park campsites. I loved hearing of her struggles and successes as a female scientist, and she deftly wove biology facts about the lives of trees with memories of her own experiences. It was especially moving to read about her dedication to trees and other plants while camping among old growth forests, or driving on the Olympic Highway and watching truck after truck full of lumber heading for the ports. Hope Jahren did an excellent job narrating her memoir, and the stories of her career, friendships, and family life are entwined with those of the plants she strives to understand.”

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I also really enjoyed listening to Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Water Knife. This novel takes place in a future society in the United States where water is the most precious commodity. When cities are cut off from the resource, the residents are forced to relocate. Almarie Guerra does a fantastic job bringing the characters to life, and I couldn’t help but see this world as a very real possibility of the future. ”

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Tenley Lozano is a former Coast Guard Dive Officer who graduated from Sierra Nevada College with an MFA in Creative Writing (Nonfiction) and works as a naval engineer in San Diego. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter, and visit her website to see her work.


Terri Barett (Air Force veteran)

Note: Terri happens to be my mother-in-law, which is why all her favorite books of the year were gifts from me.  🙂  Call me the Book Doctor. I know what you like.–Editor

One of my favorites was ‘Fallen Land‘ by Taylor Brown – a gift from you, I might add.  The prose was stark and beautiful. The depiction of the challenge to survive in a lawless land after the Civil War was well done and thought-provoking. The ending was not quite plausible, in my estimation, but tied up the story nicely.

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I also liked another recommendation by you: ‘The Sisters Brothers‘ by Patrick deWitt.  The characters are quirky and the writing style is fun.  It was an entertaining read.

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Terri Barett is an Air Force veteran and avid reader who lives in Minnesota.


 

Lisa Stice (Marine Corps spouse)

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Thank goodness for Lisa Stice, a poet, bringing the poetry reviews! Here are her two favorite books of 2016:

“What a strange, complicated year. Of all the books I read in 2016, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin’s poetry collection The Boys of Bluehill (Wake Forest University Press, 2015) whisked me away from all the daily stress and major disappointments while spotlighting all the goodness. It’s a book I needed. Chuilleanáin’s wistful perspective and her playfulness with natural elements lift the weight of heavier themes of loss, religion and regret. The disappointments and the joyous are equal, are in the past and ahead of us. We must “let it go, / let it lie until it is blown to the river; // do not look back to see whose hand / finds it, or where it is hidden again when found.

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I also found a lovely companion in Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions, 2015). A large section of her poetry collection is on the topic of moving to a new region, a topic I know quite well. She writes of the alien landscape in the new place, her struggles to adjust and of her dog her gives her unconditional support as she attempts to adapt. Limón’s juxtaposition of the beautiful with the ugly is so honest that I found myself nodding in agreement at the turn of each line.”

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Lisa Stice is the author of the “clever, musical, unflinching” poetry collection Uniform.

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Kristine Schellhaas (Marine Corps wife)

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Orphan Train: A Novel, by Christina Baker Kline: “I was immediately drawn to this book because of the little known history of orphans being sent on trains for adoption across the US in the early 19th century. It’s a beautiful story of friendship, second chances, and resilience.”

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The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, by Kelli Estes: “This book is set in Puget Sound in 1886 and paints a picture of the newly immigrated Chinese in the area and their relationships with the locals. It’s a story of perseverance in dark times and made me think about the legacy I’d like to leave in my own life.”

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Kristine Schellhaas is the founder of usmclife.com and the author of the “heartbreaking and powerful” 15 Years of War: How the Longest War in U.S. History Affected a Military Family in Love, Loss, and the Cost of Service.

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Caroline LeBlanc (Army veteran)

“My reading this past fall centered around my fall pilgrimage, with a group of Jungian/Bodysoul Rhythms colleagues, to a number of prehistoric caves in Southern France. Two books about the caves were particularly intriguing and timely given the state of our world: THE MIND IN THE CAVE by David Lewis-Williams, and CAVE PAINTINGS AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT by David S. Whitley.

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Related, and engrossing, fiction is the ‘Bruno, Chief of Police’ series by Martin Walker. While several of the books incorporate cave history and lore, most of the stories are simply set in the Dordogne regions of Southern France. They are full of details about regional and French life including historical (particularly WW II), culinary (wine, truffles, pate), equine sports, village life, immigration issues, and EU/local tensions. Informative, as well as entertaining.”

cave art replicas by Caroline LeBlanc

Caroline LeBlanc is an Army veteran, poet, playwright, Jungian scholar, and advocate for military families.

 

Veterans and Mil Spouses Recommend: Their Best Reads of 2016 (Part One)

Hello! It is I, Andria, your faithful editor here, delighted to share the books that military spouses and veterans are claiming as their best reads of 2016.

The rules? Any book was fair game as long as it was read this past year —  books could have been published in previous years, and did not have to be on a military topic.I wanted to hear what the trends were, what people were turning to this year for entertainment, comfort, and information.

I love the answers that female veterans and military spouses are giving — ranging from the reverent and dazzled to, like veteran Mary Doyle’s recap, the  truly scathing…. Women chose everything from gritty nonfiction like Tribe and Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison to new fiction such as Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You and Valerie Truebloods Criminals: Love Stories.

If there’s an avid reader on your Christmas list, I guarantee you’ll be able to find him or her a great read from this list (which starts today and will continue tomorrow as I post the responses that come in).

Let’s get started!!

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE BOOK READ IN 2016?:

Siobhan Fallon (Army spouse)

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Criminals: Love Stories, by Valerie Trueblood:

“There’s always a kind of transformation at work in Trueblood’s tales — each story might start small and unassuming, but inevitably grows and stretches, becoming Shakespearean or Greek in passion and proportion and unexpected endings; they remind me of the myth of Daphne, pursued by Apollo, choosing to turn into a laurel tree rather than succumb to the god’s ardor.

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You have ‘Skylab,’ about an American doctor and nurse who run away together to Malaysia — which this reader assumed would turn out to be an exotic love story, but then the dark repercussions of the couple having left their families behind is revealed. ‘Astride,’ set at the Pentagon (which is an exotic locale in its own right), seems to be about a harmless relationship between two glamorous office workers, until someone goes missing.  ‘Kisses’ opens with a young woman getting kissed by one of her charges at a retirement home, and surprisingly returns the kiss, but the real heart of the story is the woman’s uncertainty on how to deal with her husband’s severe PTSD. These intense stories are about humans doing the things all humans do, illuminating how even the most ordinary moments, like a son wrestling with his father or a woman overseeing her granddaughter’s slumber party, can at any moment be fraught and distorted by sudden drama.

I think anyone who appreciates fiction will be blown away by these stories, but I especially think that Trueblood’s tales, with the themes of family and marriage, separation and distance, will resonate with fellow military spouses. So please, everyone, go get yourself a copy!”

Siobhan Fallon is the author of the acclaimed short-story collection You Know When the Men Are Gone. A new novel, The Confusion of Languages, will be published in June 2017.

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Mary Doyle (Army veteran)

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“As the year winds down and I look back on 2016, all I want to do is tell it to go f&*k itself and the horse it rode in on. If I search for the positives, about the only good thing I can lean on was the ability to find good things to read. I think I may have read close to a hundred books this year, so picking only a couple as favorites is near impossible. Then again, calling something impossible only makes me want to try harder.

It shouldn’t be surprising that throughout this crappy year, I allowed myself to indulge my zombie apocalypse fascination. I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead, but the graphic novels and the TV show aren’t enough to satisfy my fix. I got hooked on R.R. Haywood’s The Undead series, which is long — more than 20 books — and endlessly entertaining. I can’t recommend them more highly.

undead      girlwithgifts

While I love The Undead, I’d have to say the best zompac I read this year was The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. If you roll your eyes when you hear “zombie,” this is the novel that will change your opinion of the genre. It takes place long after society has collapsed but there are still some who are fighting to regain their grip on civilization. The shear strength of the characters is enough to keep you engrossed. The writing is beautiful and the tale is one that will stick long after you finish.

My second pick is one that came along right when I needed a good uplifting tale. Granola, MN by Susanne Aspley was published in Nov. 2016 and is a quirky story that takes place in rural Minnesota – a place Aspley describes as, ‘a Wonder bread town.’ Pasty-white Granola gets just a bit more interesting when an Afghanistan war hero comes home to stitch his life back together. It’s funny and poignant and filled with fantastic writing. Aspley is a McKnight Award winning author and her style is unique and engaging.

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There are still a couple of weeks left before the end of this nightmare of a year. I’m hoping, if I’ve got my nose buried in something good, I can finally put this year in the rearview mirror and leave it behind like the stinky, maggot infested roadkill it has turned out to be.”

Mary Doyle is the author of a well-received mystery series featuring “strong, well-crafted heroine” Master Sergeant Lauren Harper, “an Army public affairs specialist who travels the world on Army business only to find herself embroiled in one dangerous situation after another” (www.mldoyleauthor.com). The Peacekeeper’s Photograph is the first book in the series.

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Tiffany Hawk (Air Force spouse)

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Grace by Natashia Deon:

I adore any book that is both beautifully written and suspenseful, an all-too-rare combination. Grace, the story of a runaway slave in 1840s Alabama, not only fits that bill but knocks you out with its emotionally powerful rumination on freedom, womanhood, and more than anything, a mother’s love.

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and Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday by Debbie Graber:

Anyone who has ever worked, well, pretty much anywhere will love this interconnected story collection, which fits solidly with the best workplace satire. Fans of Office Space, The Office, or Then We Came to the End, will not be disappointed. Hilarious, wickedly smart, and chock full of odd, tormented souls, Kevin Kramer Starts on Monday riffs on the everyday contradictions, personality conflicts, and absurdities inherent in any large organization. Military life anyone?”

Tiffany Hawk is the author of the “darkly funny, compulsively readable” novel Love Me Anyway.

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Learn more about her writing and writing-coaching at www.tiffanyhawk.com/.


Teresa Fazio (Marine Corps veteran)

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All The Ways We Kill And Die, by Brian Castner, is a lyrical, gutting account of the aftermath of an IED strike and its real and imagined lead-up. The book profiles war veterans the American public doesn’t always see after the ‘boom:’ injured members of explosives ordnance disposal teams, a State Department biometrics specialist, and a former soldier– okay, I’ll say it, a modern mercenary– who joins privately-contracted security details.

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Ashley’s War, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, describes members of the Army’s Cultural Support Teams, female soldiers who joined special operations teams on night raids in order to gather intelligence from Afghan women and protect women and children. The narrative is centered around First Lieutenant Ashley White, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. It’s a gripping account of the soldiers’ training and bonding, and exemplifies how women in combat scenarios can be particularly helpful when battling insurgencies. Lemmon’s book necessarily broadens the traditional hero narrative in an era when women are filtering into official combat roles.”

Teresa Fazio has been published in the New York Times “At War” column, and has an essay in the anthology Retire the Colors, as well as the forthcoming The Road Ahead (Jan. 2017) and It’s My Country Too (July 2017). Learn more about her work at teresafazio.com.


Kelly Killingbeck (Navy spouse)

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes – “This book reminded me that the path in front of you is not always straight and that being redirected can cause extraordinary changes. I also love a book that makes me cry.”

mebeforeyou       lightning-thief

Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan — “This may seem like a strange read for a 40- something, but I actually enjoyed the book. Sometimes we have to find things that can help us connect to others. For me, this book opened up a world of conversation with my 11 year old son — which, for anyone who knows 11-year-old boys, is a huge undertaking. We had so much fun discussing the books, that we ended up reading the entire series together. It took me back to my younger days and getting lost in an adventure.”

Kelly Killingbeck is an avid reader, mother of two, and Navy wife currently stationed in Virginia.


Gail Buteau (Army veteran)

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr stand out as two of the best books I read in 2016.  Both are serious and sobering novels that share a theme of main characters who live with great and life altering secrets.  The secret of Ms. Ng’s novel comes in the way of a daughter’s unexpected private life which is slowly revealed to her distraught family after her sudden and unexplained death.

everything2       allthelight

The magical secret of Mr. Doerr’s tale surrounds an object bravely hidden by a blind girl and her father in war torn France during the invasion of the Nazi’s.  Both authors share exceptional story telling skills, and ability to build and create suspense that kept me as a reader excited and anxious for each new chapter.”

Gail Buteau is an Army veteran and artist living in the San Diego area.


Angela Ricketts (Army spouse)

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Tribe by Sebastian Junger — “This quick and easy page turner should be required reading for anyone who leads a military lifestyle. The bonds that we make in the military are the bonds we consider the strongest, sometimes even stronger than family. Tribe explores the root of what binds us: a shared enemy.”

tribe       writingmywrongs

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death and Redemption in an American Prison by Shaka Senghor —  “Anger and alienation are two negative feelings that most military spouses can relate to—we know them well. As a military spouse, I didn’t expect to see so much common experience with an African American man serving a life sentence for murder. Trust me, you’ll walk away from this book with an understanding of yourself and the true meaning of forgiveness and acceptance. “

Angela Ricketts is the author of the dark and hilarious No Man’s War: Irreverent Confessions of an Infantry Wife and is a frequent contributor to Esme. 

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Alison Buckholtz (Navy spouse)

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A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

“What’s that you say about needing a distraction for the next four years?  I have a remedy for what ails you: A Dance to the Music of Time, the 12-volume series of novels by Anthony Powell originally published between 1951 and 1975.  Bound into four sets of three books each, the cycle tracks British upper-cruster Nick Jenkins’ experiences and reminisces – from the 1910s to the 1960s – in an England undergoing the kind of cultural upheaval only hinted at between courses in Downton Abbey.  It’s wry, sly, and funny in unexpected ways. But here’s what moved me: the language explores gestures so nuanced, feelings so barely perceptible, that you don’t realize until reading about them that you, too, experienced the same thing – but dismissed the moment as being too minute to capture.  It’s the very minuteness, writ large, that’s so revelatory.”

dancetothemusic       the-corrections

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen

“In true military spouse fashion, I met and married my husband, moved to Japan with him, and experienced my first carrier deployment all within the course of one year: 2001.  It’s no spoiler to confess that I was pregnant almost continually for the next few ‘00s.  So there’s a decade of novels for me to catch up on, and I started with The Corrections, published just before the September 11 attacks. It’s eerily prophetic about the America that followed its publication, and although there’s not much to like about any of the characters, the bubble of time they float in is so delicate that I wanted to cup my hands and hold it close. That’s the beauty of reading a book about ‘the current moment’ long afterward: you’re part omniscient author, too, because you know what came next, and you have the impulse to protect and shield the creatures who populate that world — no matter how flawed they are.”

Alison Buckholtz is the author of Standing By: The Making of an American Military Family in a Time of War. StandingBy_pbk-cover_300

She is also a contributor to Stories Around the Table.

Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife: Barbara McNally’s Fight for Caregivers

Today on the Mil Spouse Book Review: An interview with Barbara McNally, author of Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife.

A licensed physical therapist, Barbara McNally found herself drawn to working with injured combat veterans and their families”While an individual person may go off to war, it is the entire family that truly serves.”

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Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife offers an intimate look into the chaotic and demanding lives of military spouses as they adjust to living with injured combat veterans. These women are thrust into caretaker roles for soldiers who return home with amputated limbs, brain injuries, burns, and disabilities, with virtually no support or training. Post-traumatic stress tears their families apart, and they must wrestle with huge, imposing questions: Does he still love me? Must I sacrifice my career forever? How will this affect my kids, my sex life, my happiness?

Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife reveals the innermost thoughts of women who faced these challenges and prevailed—to not just survive, but thrive.” – from Barbara McNally’s web site

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Q. What was your inspiration for writing the book?

McNally: Driving across the Coronado Bridge, I saw a man jump to his death. I thought of his wife, mom and family. Curious, I did a little digging and found out he was a wounded warrior who felt he didn’t have any other options. Working with wives of Wounded Warriors, this was my impetuous to turn such a horrific death into something positive. This book offers resources for the wives who are living with someone who suffers from physical and mental war injuries. When someone we love is wounded we are wounded too.

Q. Is this just a book for wives of Wounded Warriors or are there universal themes you hope mainstream readers will take away from the book?

McNally: We are all on our own heroes’ journey crossing the bridge. We either jump off or find the resources to cross to the other side. We learn from those who lead heroic lives. We love stories about inspirational people who have overcome life challenges. They motivate us to live a heroic life. Anyone who is a caregiver or interested in the emotional cost of war will want to read these compelling stories.

Q. Tell us about the Barbara McNally Foundation?

McNally: I started the foundation from the proceeds of my first book Unbridled: A Memoir to sponsor events for women to grow as Mothers, Lovers, Warriors, and Sages. SPA Day for wives of Wounded Warriors has been my primary focus for the past 8 years.

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Author Barbara McNally

Q. What is SPA Day?

McNally: Support, Purpose and Appreciation. A day to nurture our nurturers. The heroines in the shadows who care for our Wounded Warriors. Where there is a Wounded Warrior, there is a wounded wife. SPA Day helps these women find the resources they need and bond with other women going through similar challenges.

Q. What have you learned from meeting women who attend SPA day?

McNally: That their lives have changed drastically. I’m learning to live bravely and heroically from those who are. They are the silent strength behind our Wounded Warriors. It gets me out of myself and any petty dramas in my own life.

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Wounded Warriors’ wives enjoying some much-deserved rest on a SPA Day

Q. Can you share a story from SPA Day or your book that touched you in a certain way?

McNally: One story is called “Making Margaritas out of Lemonade.” The lemons were her husband is a paraplegic, but the lemonade was he came home alive. The Margaritas they created out of the lemonade, was their inner and outer resources they discovered. Their personal growth and closeness as a couple showed their resiliency and offers hope for others that they too can find a meaningful life after war injuries. The outer resources they found were Operation Home Front who gave them a mortgage free home. Operation Family Caregiver provided tools to overcome their inner challenges to find happiness again.

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Q. How did you go about selecting stories to be included in the book?

McNally: Poignant and heartfelt stories. One women said her husband was too crippled to be at war and too damaged to be at peace, but there is a turning point, a transformation in each women’s life where she grows emotionally or spiritually, finds a connection and resource that changed their life for the better. This gives hope to all of us overcoming challenges. They are uplifting stories that motivate me.

Q. How can readers get more involved in SPA day or supporting Wounded Warriors and their wives?

McNally: Back to the man on the bridge. We are all on our hero’s journey crossing the bridge. By giving this book to anyone you know facing life challenges, they will find the resources within the book to help them on their journey. If you want to help, please contact me! My goal is to have a day of support, purpose, and appreciation for every wife of a Wounded Warrior throughout the U.S. If you have a Spa, or other services you want to donate please contact me. If you don’t have the time or facility to help, just $99.00 will provide a day for a wife so that she can find the resources she needs to care for herself and her Wounded Warrior.


Purchase Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife here

Barbara’s web site