Book Review

An insider’s look at military life and the toll it takes

By Donna Bruno
Posted 6/24/24

This book is a first-hand account of the multiple challenges and difficulties faced by those who choose to serve in the military. Based on …

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Book Review

An insider’s look at military life and the toll it takes


‘The Wives: A Memoir’
By Simone Gorrindo

This book is a first-hand account of the multiple challenges and difficulties faced by those who choose to serve in the military. Based on the author’s experiences as the wife of a member of an elite combat unit in the Army, Simone Gorrindo has intimate knowledge of the toll such an unpredictable life takes on those who serve, as well as their families.

Her personal account forces the reader to recognize and appreciate the courage, patience, and endurance required of these soldiers and their spouses.

For one thing, she asserts that in its attempt to harden and prepare the men for serious combat, the Army’s exercises are designed to strip the recruits of keen sensitivity, which affects many of the wives adversely. Their husbands seem to change emotionally and psychologically under the pressure and demands of what is expected of them.

In the author’s case, she found her sweet, loving Andrew become remote, removed, other-focused, especially when deployed for many months unable to share with her his location or any details about his missions. Even intermittent phone calls from Afghanistan and other foreign locales are brief and unsatisfactory, leaving her forlorn, worried, and anxious.

Although she understands the necessity of the restraints imposed, she resents constantly, endlessly waiting for the much-anticipated phone calls from far away, unable to have any meaningful conversation or connection. The main support system for wives such as she, struggling alone on their own, is the company and comfort of others existing in the same situation.

As Simone relates her life, she includes specific young women she befriends and on whom she relies for support. Away from family, they become each other’s lifeline, as only one who knows this unpredictable life can relate to the constant worry, loneliness, and yearning that encompasses their daily routines.

The women experience pregnancy, child-rearing, maintenance of homes entirely on their own, bereft of their spouse’s input or assistance. It is not a life for the faint of heart; it requires inner strength, strong faith in oneself, and super-human resilience. Many marriages crumble under these circumstances.

This book enables the reader to empathize with the demands and uncertainties of such an existence, constantly taut with tension. Moreover, the Army controls every aspect of their lives so that their decisions are never just as an independent couple, but under the supervision and direction of other forces not their own. There are endless rules about what information about training and deployment can or cannot be shared, leaving the wives often in the dark about where their spouses are or even what they are doing.

Deployments seem endless, leaving Simone yearning, pining, grieving and often wondering how she wound up in such a situation. But she also conveys the depth of her love for Andrew, who feels gratified by his work and believes fervently in its cause, defending democracy around the world.

This couple is wise enough to seek the guidance of a professional therapist who allows them to sort out their complicated, ambivalent feelings – in Simone’s case a sense of abandonment, lack of understanding when she endures a difficult pregnancy alone, disappointment at having to give up her professional career in New York upon her marriage to follow her spouse from one military base to another. She has sacrificed much.

Eventually she will find an outlet for her talent as a writer, as she takes on jobs editing and later writing this book. A graduate of Columbia School of Journalism, she had traded her vibrant and promising career in New York City for the confinement of army bases in the south. It is no wonder that she often felt out of place and stymied.

Although those in the military know of what this author speaks, civilians can’t possibly imagine such an existence dictated by military service. Once you enlist, nearly everything is determined for you — where you live, where you go, what you do each day, even with whom you socialize – nothing is left to chance or independent choice.

It is not for everyone; but for those who choose to serve, other Americans should be cognizant and grateful to these dedicated servicemen and their families who do.

Donna Bruno is a prizewinning author and poet recently recognized with four awards by National League of American Pen Women.

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