Debut novelist Galloway tells the story of one woman’s decades of military and government service.
For Rachel Ryland, service is life. Her father is a U.S. Air Force colonel who served in World War II and the Korean War; her husband is a pilot who flew in Vietnam. She joins the U.S. Air Force herself in the 1970s to make her own contribution and help pave the way for like-minded women. During an early assignment, she helps prepare the Air Force Academy for its first class of female cadets, participating in the same grueling training exercises as her male comrades and winning their respect. She takes commissions across the nation and around the globe, even when it means separation from her husband, Richard, who transitioned into civilian life as a pilot. Challenges crop up: the specter of sexual harassment always looms in the military, and the strains on her marriage, including her decision to get a hysterectomy, only increase as the years pass. After a move into politics, Rachel must decide whether to run for president of the United States. For the majority of the novel, however, her choice is between the two most important oaths in her life: the one she swore to her country and the one she swore to her husband. Galloway writes in sharp, brisk prose that’s unafraid to get into the jargon and minutiae of Air Force life. Unfortunately, she reveals a large portion of the plot through exposition, which frequently saps the story of emotional resonance. (One character’s suicide, for example, is handled with a single sentence.) Furthermore, the flatness of the characters will keep readers from becoming fully engaged: Rachel is often dogged and dogmatic (“The thing that women who like Senator Pat Schroeder don’t grasp is that it’s not about equal rights,” she claims. “It’s about equal responsibility”), her superiors are unfailingly paternal, and her husband is reliably admirable. The resulting novel presents a world that’s surprisingly short on complexity.
An overly expository military novel that lacks nuance.