About a year and a half ago I got a copy of the book, “Army Wives” by Tanya Biank.
Being an actual Army Wife, I had heard mention of this book from all over the place, but I didn’t really know a whole lot about it other than it was the inspiration for the TV show Army Wives. I was curious about it, so I went ahead and ordered a copy of it to add to my “to read” pile….a stack that is WAY too big for its own good.
Well, I finally got around to reading it recently.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting out of the book. I kind of figured it would be some kind of girly, huggy, drama-filled, “You go girl!” feel-good books. Not generally my kind of reading. I am more of a non-fiction, history, politics, serious kind of reader…unless of course it is a cookbook.
So I started reading the book, and was immediately “home-sick.”
The writer kept describing all sorts of places around Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After having been stationed there for 12+ years, the book would mention a road, or a patch of woods, or a neighborhood, and I would see it in my mind. I found myself missing dear friends back in North Carolina, and hoping that Army Life would take us there again some day, but knowing the odds were slim.
But once I got beyond the reminiscence, I was met with a book that was not at all what I was expecting.
First, I was expecting this to be a really well-written book. After all, it inspired the TV show!
Instead, well, let me put it this way. The author of the book was a journalist who wrote for the Fayetteville Observer – the newspaper there in Fayetteville, North Carolina. One of the things that drove me bonkers about that paper, was the clear lack of an editor….or at least someone that would check for grammar or spelling mistakes before it went to print. I don’t expect perfection from everyone all the time…but I do think that people who write for a living ought to be able to do it well. So since she was a writer for the paper….kind of explained a few things for me.
In the book, the story line would jump back and forth between present and past events, with little or no transition from one to the other. Often there were times that I would have to go back and re-read a page because I was trying to interpret where the story had just gone. Other times the author would repeat whole portions that had already been written about. Either she forgot that she had already written it, or maybe she had moved that text to a different part of the book, and forgot to remove it from the original location. I’m not sure. In any case, I was amazed that such a poorly written book would have been picked up as the basis of a television show.
About the story itself. The book was written with the focus on the time at Fort Bragg where there were multiple murders of Army Wives/Soldiers in a very short period of time. It made national news, and rumors flew. The author of the book seems to give the impression that she is the reason the whole country connected the dots. Believe me, us Army wives there at Bragg had put 2 and 2 together long before the Associated Press picked up the story from the newspaper. Those were tragic events that destroyed many lives, and effected Army policies to this day.
That said, the characters in the book were painted in such a way, that they really perpetuated “army wife” stereotypes. Officers’ wives were snooty and political socialites who spent their days planning social events and gossiping. Enlisted wives were young, uneducated and were best-suited for popping out kids and sleeping around.
Nearly every single main character in the book was the victim of a tragedy or the victim of a crime. Most of the supplemental characters lacked a needle on their moral compasses.
If one didn’t know better, and all you ever knew about Army Life was what you read in the book, you would be left with certain assumptions.
If I’m an Army Wife, the odds are that I will be murdered, I will be widowed or I will be a victim of some kind. All of my friends will be sleeping around, and if I do have good morals and values, I will be in the minority. If I am successful and happy in life, I will be the anomaly of Army Wives.
Knowing that a successful TV show had been inspired by this book, I assumed at some point the book would get really good…so I kept reading, waiting for that to happen. I was about 3/4 of the way through the book, and still waiting for the epiphany.
Then the book was done.
I’m left with this conclusion:
Army Wives the TV show: Is a girly, huggy, drama-filled, “You go girl!” feel-good show. I enjoy it – even though I continually point out the “That’s not how that happens!” or “You can’t really do that!” points.
Army Wives the book: Is a depressing, mis-leading, poorly written and not with your time.