Emily Gray Tedrowe
Summary (from Goodreads): Book group fiction at its best, BLUE STARS explores the bonds of family and the limits of fidelity, to tell the story of life on the home front in the twenty-first century.
Emily Gray Tedrowe has written an extraordinary novel about ordinary people, a graceful and gritty portrayal of what it’s like for the women whose husbands and sons are deployed in Iraq.
BLUE STARS brings to life the realities of the modern day home front: how to get through the daily challenges of motherhood and holding down a job while bearing the stress and uncertainty of war, when everything can change in an instant. It tells the story of Ellen, a Midwestern literature professor, who is drawn into the war when her legal ward Michael enlists as a Marine; and of Lacey, a proud Army wife who struggles to pay the bills and keep things going for her son while her husband is deployed. Ellen and Lacey cope with the fear and stress of a loved one at war while trying to get by in a society that often ignores or misunderstands what war means to women today. When Michael and Eddie are injured in Iraq, Ellen and Lacey’s lives become intertwined in Walter Reed Army Hospital, where each woman must live while caring for her wounded soldier. They form an alliance, and an unlikely friendship, while helping each other survive the dislocated world of the army hospital. Whether that means fighting for proper care for their men, sharing a six-pack, or coping with irrevocable loss, Ellen and Lacey pool their strengths to make it through. In the end, both women are changed, not only by the war and its fallout, but by each other.
Review: This is a compelling book about two very different women who are brought together at Walter Reed hospital. The women are struggling to help loved ones recover from wounds received in Iraq, while at the same time coming to terms with views about the war, family relationships, and personal issues. Both main characters, liberal literature professor Ellen and staunch Army wife and personal trainer Lacey, were difficult to relate to at times, especially when their political views took over. At times, it felt like the author was using her book to preach about her own political views, namely her dislike of President Bush and her hatred of the Iraqi war. This aside, both Ellen and Lacey were such strong women, taking on responsibility for their loved one's treatments and disabilities, while also struggling to care for their children and make life better for other families.
I don't have any personal experience with the army or marines, but I was appalled by the conditions that the soldiers and families were expected to not only endure, but also appreciate. In the acknowledgments section, the author mentions that this book was partially based on the true story of the Walter Reed housing scandal of 2007, which makes this story even more upsetting.
Rating: 4 stars