An engaging, fast-paced story about bringing change to the military establishment.

BRASS CEILING

#ME-ILITARY TOO

A female soldier rises in the ranks and challenges the military’s silence about sexual assault in this novel.

Mylander describes this book as a follow-up to her 1974 nonfiction book The Generals. It introduces Maggie Malone, a U.S. Army major on her way to Afghanistan on a rescue mission in the late 1990s. The story circles back to Maggie’s childhood on the West Point campus, where her father coaches at the gym and she dreams of becoming a soldier. Maggie is accepted to West Point in 1981, soon after the school starts admitting women, but her career takes a detour when she confronts the commandant, Julian Gard, who’s gotten her younger sister pregnant. Gard agrees to support the child but assigns Maggie to attend medical school, hoping to drive her out of the Army. Maggie becomes an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Hood’s hospital, in Texas. She’s raped by a superior officer but doesn’t report it, fearing reprisals, and she finds herself transferred to a base in Yuma, Arizona. Her career stagnates, but she finds love with Ross Ivans, a fellow soldier. After she successfully operates on visiting congressman Mil Franklin, he becomes her advocate and her career finally progresses. However, problems arise in 1997, when her fellow soldiers leave her behind during a mission in Afghanistan and she’s taken prisoner. She remains a prisoner until the 2001 U.S. invasion, when she returns to find Ross married to someone else. Maggie throws herself into her career and rises to the post of Army chief of staff, which brings her back into conflict with Gard. However, she sets her sights on changing the military’s culture regarding sexual assault. The author delivers an engaging read with a fast-paced plot that will keep readers turning pages. Maggie is a strong protagonist, and the secondary characters are generally well developed. The author grew up in a military family, and her deep knowledge of Army traditions and the realities of military life add to the book’s feeling of authenticity. There’s a touch of wish fulfillment in Maggie’s journey to the top, but it’s justified by Mylander’s portrayal of how the military's current structures and policies make advancement for women exceedingly difficult. The prose is solid and often insightful (“Bachelors are welcomed as prospective husbands and escorts….But single servicewomen of any age are considered loose cannons, threats to the wives and to the established order”), and U.S. Senate confirmation hearings are particularly compelling in Mylander’s hands. There are occasional moments of melodrama—for instance, Maggie’s mother reveals a long-held family secret just seconds before she dies—but they don’t detract from the overall narrative. The concluding chapters are set in the near future, but the story feels very much in the moment, as it deeply engages with contemporary discussions of sexual harassment and assault, representation and tokenism, and leadership and ethics. It will appeal to military fiction enthusiasts as well as those interested in women’s issues, and it’s likely to be thought-provoking for a wide range of readers.

An engaging, fast-paced story about bringing change to the military establishment.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68603-711-5

Page Count: 308

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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THE COLDEST WINTER EVER

Debut novel by hip-hop rap artist Sister Souljah, whose No Disrespect (1994), which mixes sexual history with political diatribe, is popular in schools country-wide. In its way, this is a tour de force of black English and underworld slang, as finely tuned to its heroine’s voice as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. The subject matter, though, has a certain flashiness, like a black Godfather family saga, and the heroine’s eventual fall develops only glancingly from her character. Born to a 14-year-old mother during one of New York’s worst snowstorms, Winter Santiaga is the teenaged daughter of Ricky Santiaga, Brooklyn’s top drug dealer, who lives like an Arab prince and treats his wife and four daughters like a queen and her princesses. Winter lost her virginity at 12 and now focuses unwaveringly on varieties of adolescent self-indulgence: sex and sugar-daddies, clothes, and getting her own way. She uses school only as a stepping-stone for getting out of the house—after all, nobody’s paying her to go there. But if there’s no money in it, why go? Meanwhile, Daddy decides it’s time to move out of Brooklyn to truly fancy digs on Long Island, though this places him in the discomfiting position of not being absolutely hands-on with his dealers; and sure enough the rise of some young Turks leads to his arrest. Then he does something really stupid: he murders his wife’s two weak brothers in jail with him on Riker’s Island and gets two consecutive life sentences. Winter’s then on her own, especially with Bullet, who may have replaced her dad as top hood, though when she selfishly fails to help her pregnant buddy Simone, there’s worse—much worse—to come. Thinness aside: riveting stuff, with language so frank it curls your hair. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02578-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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