Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book #25: Band of Sisters (Whitney Book #7)

Band Of SistersTitle: Band of Sisters
Author: Annette Lyon

Band of Sisters tells the story of five women living in Utah County have nothing in common other than the fact that their husbands have been deployed for a year in Afghanistan. In order to help them have a support system of friends who understand their situation, they decide to meet for weekly lunches, and through the year they go through struggles and challenges that bind them together as a band of sisters.

One of the hardest things for me about reading the books for the Whitney Awards is getting glimpses of potential about the books these books could have been if they'd had better editing. I think Annette Lyon is a good writer. I think her idea for the book is interesting and she does a good job setting up conflicts over the course of the year. But she, and most of the other Whitney authors, could benefit so much from a smart editor who could give her advice on things. For example, the characters talk frequently about when their husbands return to "base." As far as I know, the only "base" in Utah is Hill Air Force base-- there is no Army base here. I think it would have made more sense for the husbands to be part of the National Guard, since then it would have been likely that they would live all over Utah County.

There are also times when an author's preconceived notions come through a little too strongly (another failure of editing, I think). In Band of Sisters the youngest wife, Kim, has been married just a couple of months when her husband is deployed. She's living all by herself in Provo, working as a dental hygienist, and she's lonely. But she doesn't want to go home, where she has friends and older sisters. In fact, she turns around on Christmas Eve when she's just miles from Cedar City because she doesn't want to be judged by her mom, a feminist with a PhD (scary!). I understand how Kim might feel judged, but it seems to me that Kim, holing up in Provo, reluctant to tell anyone she's pregnant, AWOL on Christmas Eve, is not an innocent victim in the dysfunctional family dynamic. I feel that the implied narrator doesn't see anything wrong with Kim's actions, though.

Finally, and I just can't say this any other way. The ending was so cheesy. I actually threw the book down with a loud sigh when I finished it. This is the second Whitney book where a baby was born more than a month early with absolutely no consequences of prematurity. In this case a 35-weeker came into the world without a NICU team standing by. In a book that based itself so much on real-life places (like the restaurants of Utah County-- note: Cafe Rio doesn't sell chimichangas), having an editor screen for factual inaccuracies would have been a big plus for Band of Sisters.


Nicole said...

Shelah, I really enjoy reading your reviews. You have such an intelligent, and diplomatic point of view.

TJ said...

well, i haven't read the book myself. but my husband is in the army. and in the army, it isn't base, it is post. and there is an army post in tooele. it is mostly just an army depot, but it is there.

next, there are plenty of soldiers in the reserves all over utah, who, even though it is an air force base, could deploy out of that base as all branches usually have an office on almost any other military post. so, i guess it would depend if their husbands were active duty, or reserves.

now to the rest of the book.....i had seen it and considered buying it since initially i identify with them. my husband came home from being deployed for a year to afghanistan this past summer. and we're active duty army, and almost every one of my friends within the army has had their husband deployed. i probably won't read it though. i'll probably get irritated. if she couldn't have bothered to do her homework about the differences between air force and army or active duty or reserves it would just be too irritating. kind of like watching army wives. but if you read the book, it is actually pretty interesting, much better than the show.

sorry about such a long comment. it's just that this is my life. deployments, soldiers, post, being alone....i've experienced all of it.

Shelah said...

Thanks for the clarification, TJ. I guess it's my bad. It sounds like the husbands are active duty, and I don't know if that makes a difference or not where the family is posted.

TJ said...

no worries shelah. i'm mostly irritated with the author. and before we joined the army, i didn't know any of this myself. it has taken me a while to learn it all myself.

as to location and deploying....reserves can obviously be everywhere. but like you pointed out, the only major military installation in utah is hill AFB. i have never heard of anyone deploying of the the depot in tooele. and while it is possible they could have deployed out of hill, it is very unlikely. she would have done better to have set her book at fort bragg, or fort sam houston, fort lewis (which is where we are). they are many members on every post, some have wards comprised of just families that live on post. and it isn't unusual to have half of the priesthood deployed at one time.
all of this to say....she should have done more homework. better location, better knowledge of military language and what goes on in the families that are left behind. thanks to your review, i won't waste my time by reading it.