An Iraq War veteran chronicles the emotionally raw, disarmingly candid saga of herself and her fellow veteran husband returning to civilian life psychologically and physically wounded.
Williams previously shared her brutal saga of being female in a combat zone (Love My Rifle More Than You, 2005), alluding to it occasionally in this follow-up memoir. While in combat, she briefly met and felt close to Brian McGough. But he moved to a new assignment, where he suffered a severe brain injury from an explosive device. Stationed back in the United States, Williams located McGough, and they began a romantic relationship marked by threatened and actual violence due to his post-traumatic stress disorder and her undiagnosed psychological disabilities. Their military commands and the Veterans Administration seemed ill-equipped to deal sensitively and competently with such disabilities. In excruciating detail, Williams shares scenes from a marriage almost certain to explode. Even when she was away from her husband, Williams struggled with certain aspects of everyday life. Shopping alone in a gigantic Wal-Mart, she was overwhelmed by the variety of products, resentful that the civilian population was so spoiled, and anxiety-ridden that she could not view any store exits from the endless aisles of merchandise. Though counseling by civilians and military personnel occasionally helped both the author and her husband, progress toward a normal life seemed illusory—at best, one step forward and two steps back. How Williams and McGough partially conquered the demons, saved their marriage, began to rear children and helped countless other damaged veterans makes for an inspiring but never maudlin narrative. The memoir is certainly not a feminist tract, but Williams does examine the special adjustment problems of female combat veterans.
A brave book filled with gore and trauma—and superb storytelling. A perfect complement to David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service (2013).