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Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives Hardcover – February 7, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 146 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this insider's account of the sometimes-lethal strains that military life puts on families, Biank, an award-winning journalist and the daughter of a career army officer, finds much to admire in military spouses. She follows the lives of four women at Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the 82nd Airborne Division: the wife of a high-ranking officer who adds luster to her husband's career with her own polish; a senior noncommissioned officer's wife who ambivalently watches her son follow in his father's footsteps; a woman who falls in love with an enlisted man early in his career and struggles with balancing army demands with her own needs; and a former soldier who finds that the counterterrorist operative she married may be just as dangerous to her as he is to terrorists. Though her prose is sometimes clunky and some of the history feels a bit dated, Biank's novelistic sense of detail and suspense vividly demonstrates how "the Army... could bring couples closer together... or it could rip relationships apart." Army wives cope with unpredictable deployments and struggle to raise children alone, often on small paychecks, in a community both tightknit and sharply judgmental. "Army wives serve, too," says Biank—in an institution ambivalent about families. She makes sympathetic both their pride and their tragedies. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The author of this provocative portrait of modern army wives is herself an army wife and comes from an army family. That combination of experience and insight enhances the value of the book's depiction of the army-family community. Basically, army wives these days are more often than not educated professionals but are expected to function enmeshed in a unique hierarchy very different from anything in civilian life. Moreover, they are far more frequently required to move house and home than civilian wives, and their risk of suddenly becoming widows is constant. For this the army has established support networks, but again, those are sui generis. Overall, Biank furnishes a detailed reminder, if any is needed, that the military is still a hierarchical subculture dominated by male values that imposes a considerable burden on those semi-innocent quasi bystanders, army wives. A good choice for military collections of any size. Frieda Murray
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (February 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312333501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312333508
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (146 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #896,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am an Army wife and was thrilled to see a modern look at the military wife. The book is extremely well written. The characters were brought out in a manner that humanized them rather than stereotyped. The book is about Army wives at Ft. Bragg during a short time period and does not truly show how happy a lot of us really are. I finished the book and felt really depressed about the deaths and suicides on Ft. Bragg. The 82nd is unique and many Army wives never set foot there. I am a former soldier as well as the spouse of an Army man with 24 years in and we still love it. We do not just help out during funerals. The fun is missing in this book. It is fun to be part of it all-- we are not duty bound to help each other. We do it because we want to do it. The book also keeps bringing up "clean houses" as if that were the most important thing we care about. She mentions funerals and what woman would want a crowd coming through her house without the chance to straighten up. One of the best Army wife moments I ever had was at West Point when another Army family stopped by at 11am on a Sunday morning and seeing the chaos that my house was in just after church she quickly smiled and said, "I live in my house too." That is what Army wives are really like. There are truly many awesome wives out there and more great marriages than bad. The book focuses on mostly bad marriages and tragedy. In this operational environment I was hoping for an inspirational book about Army wives. This book is a page-turner and I could not put it down. After re-reading the jacket I can say the book does advertise itself as being just what it is, but the publicity around the book suggests it gives insight into the world of all Army wives.
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Format: Hardcover
I nearly read this book in one sitting--it was that mesmerizing. As an Army wife for 18 years, I can tell you that Tanya Biank has accomplished what I've never seen: a book about Army life written with a journalist's eye for detail and the understanding, compassionate tone of someone who's been an Army brat and became an Army wife herself. Her research, candor, and writing talents are first-rate as she offers us a window into the lives, personalities, and backgrounds of 4 very different Army wives.

This isn't the definitive book on Army wives--no one can write that because it's a deeply personal and complex subject that defies description. I think the subtitle is unfortunate, "The Unwritten Code of Army Wives," as if it were a tell-all, but don't be put off.

UNDER THE SABERS is part slice-of-life, part cultural commentary, and part news reporting as Biank's portraits of these Army wives intersect with the sensational national headlines of the murders at Fort Bragg. In the process, she articulates the daily challenges we can all relate to, such as frequent moves, solo parenting, social pressures, and anxiety about our husband's safety. UNDER THE SABERS documents an important and unrecognized social history. It will always have a prominent place on my bookshelf, no matter where we live.

Marna Krajeski, author of HOUSEHOLD BAGGAGE: THE MOVING LIFE OF A SOLDIER'S WIFE.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an Army brat and scholar who has done research on the Army life from an anthropological perspective, I found this book very interesting and well-done. It's well-written and is truly in the "case study" style, rather than being a scientific survey of attitudes or events that permeate the lives of Army wives. If that's what you're looking for (as at least one of the disappointed reviewers seems to be) you won't find it here. But if you like to learn about a neglected subculture in the United States by means of closely examining the lives of four disparate Army wives, then this is for you. No, it doesn't include Army husbands, but then the title does say "Wives." Whatever changes are occurring in the Army as far as gender goes, and whether they are positive or negative, the plain fact is that the vast majority of senior officers and NCOs are men, and the vast majority of their spouses are women (don't ask, don't tell, after all). Someone else can write the book on Army husbands, and that could be an interesting read, too. I think the whole point of Ms. Biank's book is that it is the very nature of the military lifestyle that led to the murders at Fort Bragg; they COULD have happened anywhere. The more interesting question is "Why there, why then?" and while Biank doesn't do a stellar job in answering those questions, the fact is there is probably no one "right" answer. Could be coincidence; could be the nature of that particular Army post. While my father worked in Army intelligence, and we sometimes lived on post, it was never the combat-focus in those communities that it seems to be at Fort Bragg. In the Army I saw, there was much more than combat that got done and that was important to the nation's security. At Fort Bragg, life IS focused on combat and readiness for it.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wow, I did not know what to expect when I ordered this book, but I was astounded when I read it. It should be noted that this book is a report by an Army wife and daughter about what took place on Ft. Bragg in the 2000's. The tv show was simply a spin-off of this documentary.It gives a realistic, if grim, look at the pressure-cooker lives of army families when the country is at war. Armt is about several murders that took place at an army base in the Carolinas. Several G.I.s murdered their wives due to the tension of the deployments and the war. I was a military wife for years and I can relate to this book, although my husband was never at war. I wish everybody would read books like this so that they can realize what it sometimes takes to keep our country safe. Military life takes its toll on those who protect us and on their families. The book is well written and well documented; it is a riveting fast read. Five stars are not enough.
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