I discovered author Kristin Henderson when her book Driving by Moonlight was selected as a book club read. Driving by Moonlight details Ms. Henderson’s struggles with infertility, and it struck a personal note with me on many levels. I, too, struggled with infertility, but more importantly, Ms. Henderson is a fellow military spouse. Driving by Moonlight is an amazing journey and well worth reading.
Title: Driving by Moonlight: A Journey Through Love, War and Infertility by Kristin Henderson
Publisher: Seal Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Length: 288 pages
After 9/11, Kristin Henderson’s husband ships out with the Marines, a Lutheran military chaplain headed for the war on terror. She’s a Quaker pacifist — he’s not. In search of peace, she hits the road with her German shepherd, Rosie, crossing America in an old Corvette.
From the start of Driving by Moonlight, a fast-paced memoir published by Seal Press, Kristin’s on a heartbreakingly funny adventure in how to give your life meaning even when you don’t like the road you’re on. As she explores the back roads of a changed country, she worries about her husband and questions her belief in nonviolence, just as she earlier questioned her belief in Christianity. That crisis of faith nearly ended a marriage already battered by her struggle to have a baby her husband didn’t want. Now, years later, she peers back at her determination to pursue infertility treatment despite the expense, the pain, the lonely absurdity, and the surprisingly dangerous drugs, not to mention the toll it took on their souls. As she tries to unlock the secret of why she was so driven to keep trying, she finds herself wondering: Is the primal urge to make war as unstoppable as the urge to make a baby?
Kristin hopes to arrive at an answer, but with the help of her dog, her car, and the people she meets along the way — from a gum-chewing palm reader in New Orleans to a burly cook on a snowbound Wyoming mountaintop — she reaches an unexpected destination within her own heart.
Ms. Henderson’s next novel, While They’re At War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront is a moving account of what military families go through while their loved ones are deployed. This poignant story takes you deep into the hearts and lives of service members and their families as it details the sacrifices they and their families make while serving their country.
Title: While They’re At War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront by Kristin Henderson
Publisher: Mariner Books
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Kristin Henderson is a journalist married to a military chaplain who has served in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. In While They’re at War, she draws upon the trust she’s earned from military families and her unique access to military staff to give us a “powerful, revealing, and sometimes painful . . . look behind the scenes” (Booklist) of the modern military’s untold story.
We first meet Marissa Bootes and Beth Pratt, new Army wives undergoing intense indoctrination on Fort Bragg, NC, while their husbands are fighting in Iraq. Their stories unfold to reveal often hidden aspects of life on the homefront. Through gripping storytelling, we see families battling the overwhelming effects of isolation and anticipatory grief, the strongly enforced codes concerning infidelity, their feelings of alienation from military staff and nonmilitary citizens, and the harrowing impact of e-mail/cellphone/CNN culture. Moving scenes bring to life the special struggles of children and those who teach and care for them, as well as the toll that combat exposure takes on families, especially if it erupts into homecoming violence. Finally, Henderson captures the life-changing solidarity experienced in an informal support group like Fort Bragg’s Hooah Wives.
While They’re at War is an indelible portrait, too, of virtually invisible figures such as homefront fathers raising teenagers alone. We also meet the chaplains, social workers, and psychiatrists dedicated to helping military families cope. And, through Henderson’s brilliant reporting from Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Ward 57, we are given a searing view of the wounded and their families confronting changed lives.
“In a country of nearly three hundred million people,” Henderson writes, “only two and half million serve in the armed forces … Yet in our American democracy, the warriors themselves don’t get to decide when [sacrifices] are to be made. Civilians make that decision. It’s up to our civilian Congress to declare war … and it’s up to the civilians who elect those leaders to pay attention, to make sure that the cause of the hour is worth the sacrifices being made on their behalf.”
While They’re at War is moving and necessary testimony for all Americans, from the military families who make possible America’s way of war and way of life.
For more information, please visit Ms. Henderson’s website.