While They're at War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront

Her husband's in Iraq, so this journalist gathers the stories of other military wives.

Building upon her journalism for The Washington Post Magazine, Kristin Henderson reveals another side of the Iraq conflict: military families who live on a completely different planet from us civilians while their loved ones are at war. As the Quaker wife of a Navy chaplain serving in Iraq, she sums up the reality chasm while visiting her sister: "I suddenly realized I was the only person in that house for whom everything had changed." Reporting on the painful, hidden home-front experience, she follows two newlywed Army wives at Fort Bragg, N.C., through the course of their husbands' deployments. One, Beth Pratt, alone with her sheltie in a strange military town, falls into such a consuming depression that she admits she would have killed herself if she kept a gun in the house. The other, Marissa Bootes, becomes a whirlwind of activity, spinning quickly through days chock-full of work and caring for her young child with no room to think. Interspersed are other stories of military spouses (including the author), children, and mental-health providers. Henderson's nicely organized and readable chapters commingle alarming facts— the first marriages of combat veterans are 62 percent more likely to fail than those of civilians—and real-life drama, as when Bootes chastises a married woman for coming to a dance club with another man while her husband is deployed. The politics of war are inescapable throughout. Thankfully, Henderson goes in with a microscope, not a pedestal. Pratt believes the best way to support her spouse is marching for peace. Bootes thinks that's ridiculous. Because both these women are so fully developed—so fully human—with personal histories and motivations, War should have, and deserves, wide readership among Wallingford peaceniks and Fort Lewis patriots alike. Henderson shows how loneliness for these women can be as crippling as bombs, fear as traumatic as firefights. The casualties are not limited to the battle zone.

 
comments powered by Disqus