Book Review & Giveaway ~ Mrs. Lieutenant

THE CONTEST DEADLINE HAS ARRIVED

“They had their whole lives to look forward to if only their husbands could survive Vietnam.  In the spring of 1970…four newly married young women come together at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, when their husbands go active duty as officers in the U.S. Army.”

                                       A Sharon Gold Novel

I received the novel, “Mrs. Lieutenant” in the mail last week from the author Phyllis Zimbler Miller.  Thanks to Books on the Brain for recommending me as a reader/reviewer for this title.  I spent three days reading “Mrs. Lieutenant” from cover to cover and needless to say, I didn’t get much else done in that time.  The hubby was pretty impressed when I announced that I had finished it in such a short period of time and asked me what I thought. 

I really enjoyed “Mrs. Lieutenant”.  It’s a story of four very different women who find themselves in the same situation.  They are all married to active duty officers in the United States Army and the Vietnam War is raging overseas.  The possibility of their husbands having to report for duty in a distant land, where life and death is at stake, is highly probable and a reality that none of them want to face. 

Sharon, Donna, Kim & Wendy are from very different backgrounds and are very nervous about meeting people different from themselves.  Sharon is from Chicago (a northerner), Jewish and is strongly opposed to the Vietnam War.  Donna is a Puerto Rican Army brat married to a White man from the mid-west but has a secret.  Kim is the most naive of the four, having grown up in foster care with her younger sister in rural North Carolina.  She depends on her close-minded, jealous and hotheaded husband for everything.  Wendy is the daughter of a doctor, is from South Carolina and is African-American.  Her parents sheltered her her whole life and for the first time she is getting a taste of discrimination in northern Kentucky. 

After a rough start between them they get to know and depend on each other as friends and confidants.  They face many rough patches together and individually during their short stay at Ft. Knox where their husbands are in Army Officer Basic Training School.  They have to make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. 

For the most part I really enjoyed this book.  The story drew me in and I felt a connection with the characters.  Though I am not a military spouse, I have become friends with many Marine wives and a couple of Air Force wives here on Okinawa.  Unfortunately I believe that many of the same limitations and challenges that faced the characters in the military of 1970 are still being faced by the military spouse today.  The fear of speaking up because it may cause a ripple and affect your husband’s job is still very real.  This is one problem that I do not face with my husband’s job and I have found myself face to face with a high-ranking officer’s wife, questioning her actions.  The common question among my friends was, “You did that?!”. 

The prejudices of 1970 were still very prevalent and at times it was uncomfortable to read the passages where tensions were raised.  The book was enjoyable and quick paced which I liked.  I had only one problem while reading and that was the distraction of how the author used present tense instead of past tense but that is just a personal preference.  After a while I felt like I was there in the story as an observer. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is curious about the life of a military spouse.  “Mrs. Lieutenant” is very relevant in today’s world.  The military spouse faces fear of their loved one being deployed to the Middle East at a moments notice just as those women did during the Vietnam War.  I have a few friends who have deployed and since returned from both Iraq and Afghanistan and I spent every day worrying about their safety, not able to imagine the level of stress and constant worry that their families felt.  I will recommend “Mrs. Lieutenant” to my friends here in Okinawa and those who have since PCS’d (Permanent Change of Station aka moved), knowing that they would be able to relate to the stories of Sharon, Donna, Kim & Wendy.

{Rating – 4 out of 5} 

 

WIN IT: Phyllis Zimbler Miller is offering a signed copy of her novel, “Mrs. Lieutenant”, to one Planet Books reader. All readers with US, US military, and Canadian addresses are eligible.
To enter, just leave a comment here by Midnight EST on July 4th, either about this post (for example, tell us about your own “first day” as a spouse or soldier or about someone you know affiliated with the military) or about something you saw on www.mrslieutenant.com. Comments that simply say, “win” or “hello” will not be eligible.  The winner will be chosen at random by Planet Books.

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30 thoughts on “Book Review & Giveaway ~ Mrs. Lieutenant

  1. Thanks so much for this review. I’m really glad that you enjoyed the book, and that you were able to relate to the fears of these women, which are similar fears that military spouses again face today.

    And I’m looking forward to sending a signed copy of the book to one of your blog’s fans.

  2. Pingback: Guest Post and Giveaway: Phyllis Zimbler Miller, author of Mrs. Lieutenant « Books on the Brain

  3. I am looking forward to reading this book, win or lose.
    This book hits close to home for me. I was a young USAF lieutenant’s wife during the Vietnam era and it was an unforgettable experience. Since we couldn’t afford for me to live on my own, my 2-year-old daughter and I were forced to live with his parents and sister for a year, and that was a battlefield of a different sort. When he finally came home, he was not the man I had married and the marriage eventually fell apart. The scorn and rejection that we both faced, even though we didn’t support the war, was something I will never forget. Maybe if I had had a support system like these women had in each other, things might have been different. Even his own parents refused to accept the fact that he was proud to serve his country and considered them all “baby-killers” and wrote him not once during that year. I just have to read this book. I have emotions that, to this day, I keep inside.

  4. Hannah –
    Your comment just brought tears to my eyes. I can “picture” what your life must have been like that year you lived with your husband’s family. And it’s so hard for me to understand how his own parents didn’t write him once during that year.

    Do email me through my website at http://www.mrslieutenant.com after you’ve read the book. I’d really like to hear from you.

    And FYI — on my website I have information about organizations that support military families today. I also have this organization listed (see below) — the org has the motto “May No Solder Go Unloved” because there are soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan today who NEVER GET MAIL FROM ANYONE. And that also brings tears to my eyes. Imagine not having anyone who cares whether you live or die.

    Soldiers’ Angels
    ( website: http://www.soldiersangels.org )
    Sends letters, care packages and comfort items to deployed military personnel and helps families at home as requested.

  5. PS to Hannah –
    Please consider going over to http://www.yourmilitary.com before the June 29th deadline and submitting your story (it can be what you wrote above) for the “Tell-Your-Own-Story” military spouse contest (past and present military spouses). There are some great prizes for the 5 grand prize winners (besides my book).

    Also, I would be interested in either using the comment above with your permission or having your write something different as a guest post on http://www.mrslieutenant.blogspot.com. I believe your experience will hit a chord with many people our age who lived through the Vietnam War experience as well as with others who have friends or relatives fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan now. pzmiller@mrslieutenant.com

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  7. My brother did two tours of duty in Vietnam in the late ’60s.
    I was in my 20s at the time and he was only 5 years older.
    I think your review hits the nail on the head somewhat in comparing today’s situation with that of Vietnam. However the anti-war feeling then was much stronger than now. At least now there is more patriotism felt about the soldiers serving than there was then.
    I can appreciate what Hannah said about her husband coming home a different man. I think all of them came home different. My brother did. They had seen so much horror over there and weren’t supported on the home front. They did not come home to a warm welcome.
    This is a book I’d really be interested in reading. Thank you for your thorough review of it. Please enter my name in the drawing.

  8. As a former military brat myself, and now living in a military community overseas, this could be a very interesting read for me. Now, as an adult, I view the role of the military spouse in a totally different light than I did growing up…and can appreciate it a whole lot more. Constant moves, deployments, military politics, war… this a world that could make for a whole series of books. I look forward to reading this one.

  9. This sounds like such a great book. I’ve read so much about it, I can’t wait to actually read it!

  10. Hi Phyllis,
    My experience is of serving in the South African Army in Namibia in 1986. We used to call it ‘Nam in a concious reference to the Vietnam experience. My wife (then girlfriend) went through a very tough time while I was away then (and in subsequent years with the 3 months a year I had to spend in the army). I will buy this book for her (although I will of course also read it..)
    Thanks to karen for the great review.

    All the best
    John

  11. Friendly Reminder ~ To be eligible in winning a copy of “MRS. LIEUTENANT” please leave a comment here by Midnight EST on July 4th, either about this post (for example, tell us about your own “first day” as a spouse or soldier or about someone you know affiliated with the military) or about something you saw on http://www.mrslieutenant.com. Comments that simply say, “win” or “hello” will not be eligible.

  12. John –

    Thank you so much for your comment. I was very interested in your description of the use of ‘Nam in the South African Army in 1986. I have just sent your comment to my husband (who is a military history buff) to ask if he knew this.

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  14. i was reading the reviews from the site and i really liked this one.
    A very important look into the lives of army wives and, despite the uniqueness of the historical period, probably not much has actually changed for today’s officers’ wives.

  15. My brother spent 20 plus years in the Air Force and my son spent years in the army. I know how lonely it can be to go to a new post for both the service member and the family. Blessings to all of those who serve their country and their families too.

  16. I am facing my husband’s first deployment. We will celebrate our 4th anniversary on July 2nd and our son is just over two years old. Much too soon, he will leave for a seven month deployment to Iraq. When we were dating we lived “across” the country from each other, I in Maine and he in Florida. We spent a year in courtship before we decided to “give it a go”, as they say.

    I remember the first time I visited a military base. I had gone down to visit him and he took me to NAS Pensacola. I remember thinking “Wow, the guards actually have guns!” The whole place looked so sterile and institutional, aside from the beautiful trees and lawns. I felt like a foreigner in a strange land.

    Having been a Marine spouse for almost four years now, and having moved as many times, when I drive onto a base, any base, it feels like home. I know the hustle and bustle of what’s going on inside those cream colored, brick buildings. I drive past a cookie cutter military housing neighborhood and I can feel the strength and cameraderie that lie within. I know that my fellow military spouses will be there for me with their cameraderie when my strength fails.

    I would love to read this book. Thank you for giving me a place to voice my story.

  17. Hello, My husband’s father is a retired Lt. Colonel, having served 32 years in the Air Force! He served for a year in
    Vietnam in the Communications aspect of the war! Their
    family ended up adopting a baby girl that was the outcome of an American GI and a Thai mother. The baby was being sold on the street by her mother. She was severely ill from rat bites and infection on her face and 3 of her fingers. My father-in -law saved her life and she is now 34 years old!
    My dad will be turning 90 years young and is a WWII survivor. He was drafted into the Navy. I would enjoy reading this book. Please enter me in your drawing. Many thanks, Cindi

  18. My husband was in the Navy during the first gulf war. He was deployed three days after we found out we were expecting twins and before we even had time to unpack the boxes from our move away from “civilian” life. Military life is a completely different existence from anything else I have ever experienced. And yes, as a spouse you are expected to behave in a certain way and be very accepting of the fact that your life does not really belong to you. We have many friends that love that life and have chosen to stay in. With our unique situation, we did not chose that path. I would love to read this book. Thanks for the chance.

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  20. Sounds like a great book. I’d be curious to see if something similar comes out of the spouses of those in Iraq/Afghanistan. As for myself, my father served in Germany at the Berlin wall before it came down.

  21. This is a world that I know I know nothing about! Through my church we “support”/sponser several of the church members extended family members that are over seas. I am happy to help them in any way that I can. I can’t even imagine what their spouses must go through! The glimpses I receive from their family members are humbling!
    Thank you for this opportunity!

  22. I just got back from a wedding in Hawaii. The bride as a childhood friend and her husband is a ranger in US Army. I don’t have first hand experience, but to see the smile and the glow in her eyes during those first few minutes, it was great.

  23. I can’t relate as a wife of a service man but as a young teen I sure do remember my uncle leaving for Vietnam and the impact it had on the family. Then when he returned, one of the things that still sticks with me today is how his eyes darted around constantly for almost two years after he returned.

  24. my first day living together with my husband, i awoke to find a “stranger” in my bed and was quite weirded out by it all

  25. I’ve been an Military wife for a number of years. I’ve been an active duty wife, an Army Reserve wife, presently I have the honor of serving as a Army National Guard spouse. My husband and I together have gotten threw many missions and have just ended a deployment to Iraq. The things that have seen us threw even in the darkest of hours is faith, hope, and love.

  26. My first day as an Army spouse was like being a stranger in a foreign land. They had their own rules and regulations that you were just supposed to know. I had to stumble my way along and learn their language as I went. In the early days I felt so out of place. I did become comfortable with the Army world, but I’m always learning about the culture.

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