In Glassburn’s (Ridin’ High, 2015, etc.) novel, a young woman embarks on a journey of self-discovery after her new husband enlists in the military during the Vietnam War.
Nineteen-year-old Sheila Doty Gallagher left college to marry her heartthrob, Jim, and she’s just started to adjust to married life. She’s justifiably shocked when Jim announces that he’s joined the Navy. After he goes away for a brief training period, he returns and tells Sheila that they’ll be moving from Minneapolis to Long Beach, California, where he’s been stationed. Before long, she discovers that the domestic life she imagined isn’t going to materialize. Jim is sent on many assignments that require him to take prolonged absences from home, and each time he returns, the visits are increasingly strained. When his tour finally ends, Sheila hopes to repair their relationship; unfortunately, Jim informs her that he plans to re-enlist. She decides that she’s had enough of waiting around and subordinating her dreams to Jim’s plans. She sets off on a journey of her own, traveling to various parts of the country and trying out different lifestyles and relationships. As Sheila meets hippies, conservatives, adulterers, and friends during her travels, Glassburn paints a vivid panorama of life in America during the Vietnam War era. The story is rich with details of the lives of Navy wives and effectively portrays the conflicting perspectives in different parts of the country during the 1960s and ’70s. The many flashbacks to Sheila’s youth, interspersed throughout, tend to obstruct the flow of an otherwise gripping main narrative. At the same time, though, they do provide information about her formative years, her dysfunctional family, and the disparity between her childhood dreams and her adult reality.
A thoughtful, sensitive examination of the effects of war, sexism, and unfulfilling relationships.