Title: 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.