A Year of Absence by Jessica Redmond

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The story that has not been told - Until Now!  When I went off to the Vietnam War back in 1967, not many of us were career soldiers—most of us were draftees, or just doing our enlistments. We all wanted to get the hell out of the service as fast as we could. We were mostly single men. The vast majority of us did not deploy as a unit but went as individual replacements. For those of us who had spouses and children they would find a world with no support systems in place. These families would become isolated in various parts of the country. I honestly never gave any deep thoughts to what it was like back in the states for those families left behind, or for those who were married with children.

Author Jessica Redmond paints a vivid picture of what was never talked about or seen by most of us old veterans (or the public) in her riveting account of those left behind by their spouses deployed to Iraq. Her book “A Year Of Absence – Six women’s stories of courage, hope, and love” was an eye and heart opener for me. She gives us an insider view of what life is like for those family members who have to survive and carry on without their spouses for a year.

Her book is a well written chronicle of the intimate lives of six women left behind on a US Army base in Baumholder, Germany. Her women soon discover how little the government can really do to help them and they soon realize that they have to take care of each other. They face all the normal family issues plus the added stresses of having their loved ones thousands of miles away in a combat zone. Jessica captures the feelings and the emotions and the reality of the life they faced. It is a hard honest look at what their lives were like for one year. You cannot help but be captivated by their stories. I think, as the title implies, these women’s stories were about love and courage and so much more.

This book should be required reading for all spouses of military personnel. Military life is not easy in an all volunteer Army (or any of the services) and those marriages that do manage to survive until retirement certainly have something special going for them. This book is a look at how these women handled things and how they felt. It spares us little—all of their emotions are opened up to view; the fears, the depression and even the joy of reunions. It is not an easy life and this book exposes that truth for all to see.

The book itself is very well written and structured so that readers can follow along on this year long journey as if you are a member of the family. One of the best written accounts on the social impact of modern war; a must read book! Given the MWSA HIGHEST RATING - FIVE STARS!

Reviewed by: Bill McDonald (2005)

Author's Synopsis
A Year of Absence follows the lives of six women whose husbands, all members of the U.S. Army’s First Armored Division based in Germany, deploy to Iraq in April 2003. A young lieutenant’s wife comes dangerously close to alcoholism. Marriages are pushed to the breaking point by the constant strain of fifteen months apart. Each morning the women anxiously scan the headlines, wondering if they still have a husband, if their children still have a father. Some form friendships that become their lifeline. Others somehow find courage despite their isolation. Through tearful goodbyes, long-awaited communication from the front, and joyful yet troubled reunions, A Year of Absence captures what life is like for many families of deployed soldiers: the ever-present fear of death, the pressures of single-parenthood, and the strength and comfort that come with the support of close friends. Book excerpt Jena was strolling home from walking the dog when she noticed an official U.S. Army car carrying two soldiers in Class A uniforms heading toward her street. She felt her pulse quicken and, without meaning to, she started doing the math. If the soldiers stopped at her building, there was a one-in-twenty-four chance that Adam was dead. If they stopped at her stairwell, it was one-in-eight. Don’t come down here, she prayed silently. Please let it be somebody else.