A frank account of a woman’s rapid rise and scandalous fall in the Marines during the Reagan era.
Crow (Creative Writing/Eckerd Coll.) begins in an interrogation room where she was being questioned in preparation for a potential court-martial on charges of conduct unbecoming an officer. The author returns to this room, and that time period, intermittently throughout the book. Otherwise, the story progresses in roughly chronological order: Crow’s entrance into the Marines as a teenager seeking to escape alcoholism (her own and her father’s); her successful career as a military journalist; her personal struggles with marriage and motherhood. A particularly strong theme is the way the military was unable to see beyond her unmistakably feminine body: “Despite the personal challenges I had overcome—alcoholism, self-loathing, laziness—I could never defeat the signals my body sent the world.” Crow’s response to sexism and harassment was to starve herself to make weight and ignore a serious health problem in order to complete an assignment—a decision that had devastating consequences. By the end of the book, what seemed like shocking conduct at the beginning is placed in the context of the author’s drive for a life with purpose, and we see that the decision she made to resolve her situation is a true sacrifice on her part. At times the author’s prose is stilted, and she often relies too heavily on a few phrases (e.g., “hot blood,” “too-tight bra”).
Honest and unsparing, though sometimes repetitive, this memoir is at its best when exploring the challenges faced, and sacrifices demanded, by women in the armed forces.