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While They're at War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront Hardcover – February 2, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 45 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. By the time Beth Pratt's husband returned from Iraq, they had been apart longer than they had known each other. Not long after Charlie Bootes's first deployment, his wife, Marissa Bootes, became a leader in one of the army's Family Readiness Groups, heading up phone trees and organizing girls' nights out while also managing a job and motherhood. When three uniformed soldiers came to Michelle Hellerman's door, she thought that they were picking her up for a comfort team; she didn't imagine that the terrible news was for her. "This is the war story you never hear," writes Henderson about what is actually a series of engrossing and often heartbreaking stories built from more than 100 interviews. The Quaker wife of a military chaplain, Henderson is a compassionate expert witness. For military families, her explanations of the official and unofficial support systems that serve (and sometimes fail) Fort Bragg's soldiers amount to a useful handbook. For civilians, the stories provide a revealing look into what it really means when a country goes to war. Though many of the soldiers Henderson writes about are serving in Iraq, she takes neither side in the war debate, and keeps to a style that is both intimate and professional. This is an emotional book that effectively plies the complexities of military life. (Feb)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

An all-volunteer military now means that most Americans don't personally know someone serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, which means we also don't know much about the toll on their families. Henderson, whose husband is a navy chaplain, profiles military families, focusing on two wives coping with life at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Beth Pratt and Marissa Bootes face the challenges of their husbands' first deployment as junior enlisted men, and they are full of anxieties while struggling to maintain emotional and financial stability. Henderson details the support groups developed by military wives to bolster themselves against depression, substance abuse, infidelity, the pressures of single parenthood, suicidal impulses, and husbands who return with emotional problems. One group stays in such compulsive contact that a husband jokingly calls them a cult. This powerful, revealing, and sometimes painful book offers a look behind the scenes of military families most often seen during tearful good-byes, joyful homecomings, and "the occasional yellow-ribbon moment." Vanessa Bush
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (February 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618558756
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618558759
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,543,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Journalist Kristin Henderson, wife of a military chaplain, has written a timely book about life on the homefront, the story -- or, more accurately, the stories -- of America's military families, the spouses and children whose husbands and fathers, wives and mothers, serve as part of our volunteer military. This beautifully written book left me in tears every few pages; Henderson tells many stories here -- of marriages that grow, marriages that fail, a wounded soldier rebuilding his body with the help of his wife, a widow rebuilding her shattered life with the help of family, friends and her community.

Henderson has a great talent for painting a detailed picture in shades of gray -- there is no black or white in these stories, no absolute right or wrong. When she documents the coming-apart of a relationship, Henderson puts herself into each partner's point of view. There are no villains, just people striving to do their best in what are often difficult and heartbreaking circumstances. These stories inspire compassion, and often pride and admiration of the service members, their spouses, and their families. Henderson incorporates much useful information concerning resources for military spouses and families, and includes many illuminating statistics without ever being dry or boring.

WHILE THEY'RE AT WAR gave me a new appreciation for the sacrifices involved in a military career, sacrifices made both by service members and by the family members that love and support them. Many thanks to Henderson for telling an important story both we civilians and our leaders need to understand in evaluating the full costs of war to our society.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a tour de force. The author has deftly integrated many compelling personal narratives about the experiences of military spouses left behind when their mates deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, together with a great deal of factual material and statistics which tell us what our government is, and is not, doing to support the troops and their families before and after deployment. The result is the best form of non-fiction; a story you cannot put down until the end, along with credible, well-researched and well-documented facts that provide education as well as entertainment. As the author points out, most of us in the US do not have anyone "in the fight", and though we may have firmly held beliefs about whether or not the US should be in Iraq, we probably don't have a lot of first-hand knowledge about what the war effort really entails for those who are actually involved. This book puts us into the soldiers' homes, before, during and after their deployments. We ride along with the stateside spouses as they deal with work, children, child care, and their peers. We get inside the stresses they face and we see where the "system" offers them support and where it fails. Because so few of the people in the Administration and Congress have had the personal experience of military service, and even fewer - if any - have had any experience with deployment in the military conflicts of the new millenium, this book should be required reading for every one of them. I wish I could afford to send a copy to every member of Congress, but I can't. I wish the House and the Senate, along with the Pentagon and the White House, would form a book club and make this their first choice. We would all benefit from such an endeavor.
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Format: Hardcover
Only 1% of our nation knows what it's like to send the people they love into war. Kristin Henderson makes this point in WHILE THEY'RE AT WAR and discusses the importance for every citizen to understand what they're going through. Whether you're for the war or against it - it is neccessary to support the military families and spouses.

Wonderfully written, compelling and riveting, this book shows what it's like for two very different women going through their husband's first deployments. Kristin's own story as a military spouse is in the background, and she also includes the stories of many other women and men across the country.

I couldn't put this book down - and feel that it is a book that can change lives - it certainly changed mine.
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Format: Hardcover
This books gives a pretty accurate dipiction of military life during war time. Each of the stories shows a different way a spouse reacted during the deployment. The only problem I have with this book is that each story is so scattered throughout the book. I wished that each chapter would have focused on on one story for every chapter or two. This way is a little confusing as to where each person is. There are times the author even is switching between Vietnam War and Iraq War stories and it can be very confusing. Overall I felt like I wasn't alone in my feelings during the deployment. And learned a few more things. I really liked the section in the back of the book that listed where the author got a lot of her reference materials, so I can read them too.

So to the reader who states that it's our own fault if we don't search out the information - Sometimes we don't know where to go or who to contact to get that information. During my husbands deployment, if our Marine unit hadn't had mandatory family readiness meetings for everyone I would never had known what was going on. Thank god for the KVC because when I went to the mandatory Return and Reunion meeting for the entire unit - the Ombudsman had, had no idea there was any Navy attached to Weapons Co. She was so surprised to see us and here they were coming back in a few weeks after being gone for a year! Being in the Navy I got all my information thru the Marines and not all that applied to me in the NAVY. They'd tell me to contact the Navy for more information but couldn't tell me who to talk too. Where does that leave me? Hanging out there in the wind. I live in a civilian community and am the only one with a miltary deployed husband, I lost my job because of his deployment. This is a book that civilians should read to get a little better understanding of the military spouse situation. Because a being a military spouse is not at all like being a single parent!
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