Synopses & Reviews
From an award-winning, “meticulously observant” (The New Yorker
), and “masterful” (Booklist
) writer comes a groundbreaking account of three women deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and how their military service affected their friendship, their personal lives, and their families.
America has been continuously at war since the fall of 2001. This has been a matter of bitter political debate, of course, but what is uncontestable is that a sizeable percentage of American soldiers sent overseas in this era have been women. The experience in the American military is, it’s safe to say, quite different from that of men. Surrounded and far outnumbered by men, imbedded in a male culture, looked upon as both alien and desirable, women have experiences of special interest.
In Soldier Girls, Helen Thorpe follows the lives of three women over twelve years on their paths to the military, overseas to combat, and back home…and then overseas again for two of them. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends, and we watch their interaction and also what happens when they are separated. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home. We see some of them drink too much, have illicit affairs, and react to the deaths of fellow soldiers. And we see what happens to one of them when the truck she is driving hits an explosive in the road, blowing it up. She survives, but her life may never be the same again.
Deeply reported, beautifully written, and powerfully moving, Soldier Girls is truly groundbreaking.
"Journalist Thorpe (Just Like Us) tells the moving story of three women in the Indiana National Guard who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following her subjects from 2001 to 2013, Thorpe draws on interviews, personal correspondence, emails, diaries, medical records, and even therapists' notes to portray their lives before, during, and after deployments. Michelle Fisher, a 'music-loving... left-leaning' college student; Desma Brooks, a single mom with three children and three jobs; and Debbie Helton, a grandmother in her 50s and one of the longest-serving females in the National Guard, had different reasons for enlisting before 9/11. Not expecting to go to war, the three women bonded during their service in Afghanistan as part of the 113th Support Battalion at Camp Phoenix in Kabul. Through the years in Afghanistan, where they diligently fulfilled their duties and struggle to adapt to military culture; in their return to civilian life; in the redeployment of two of them to Iraq their support for each another never wavers. They speak openly about their drinking, illicit affairs, and struggles to fit in among a civilian population that seems oblivious to either war. Highlighting how profoundly military service changed their lives and the lives of their families this visceral narrative illuminates the role of women in the military, the burdens placed on the National Guard, and the disproportionate burden of these wars borne by the poor. Agent: Denise Shannon, Denise Shannon Literary Agency. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Helen Thorpe was born in London and grew up in Medford, New Jersey. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, New York Magazine, and The Texas Observer. Thorpe has worked for Texas Monthly, The New York Observer, and The New Yorker, where she wrote "Talk of the Town" stories. She is married to John Hickenlooper, the mayor of Denver. Just Like Us is her first book.