Books Military

Going Overboard Reflection

July 27, 2017

The military spouse lifestyle can be a bit somber: there are a lot of goodbyes, usually more than one person’s fair share of tears and sometimes some very serious moments.  Thanks to a lot of mainstream media, many civilians think things end there, but they don’t. In between the tears, there is laughter. There is levity to balance out the somber moments. There is humor in the military spouse lifestyle and Sarah Smiley shares many of those moments in Going Overboard.

Summary: In 1999, Sarah was a typical bride-to-be, flustered with wedding details. Then the groom called. “I don’t want you to panic, but I might not be able to come to our wedding….”

So began Sarah Smiley’s life as a military wife. As a former Navy brat herself, Sarah knew better than anyone that weddings and funerals—even childbirth!—take a backseat to Uncle Sam. But just as the young, nationally syndicated columnist was getting comfortable with the military wife’s routine, her husband was sent away for an unexpected deployment. What followed was a true test of strength and wit. From getting locked out of the house in cowgirl pajamas to wrestling with the temptation of infidelity, Sarah exposes it all with candor, heart—and knowing humor.

My thoughts: I had mixed reactions to this one. On one hand, I felt like this was the least dramatized version of a military spouse’s life that I’ve read and I really appreciated that. Sarah was honest (sometimes brutally so) about the ups and downs of being married to the military. I think her reactions to deployment were genuine and completely relatable.  So many of us bicker with our spouses right before they leave. So many of us have had complete meltdowns because the dryer is broken again or the dog has gotten sick on the bed or we’re locked out of the house in our cowgirl PJs.

But on the other hand, I was a bit disheartened by this book. Sarah is tempted by infidelity during her husband’s deployment, so much so that her being at his homecoming is in question at one point.  While I can completely understand how difficult it is to be by yourself and can empathize with her feelings, I just cannot get behind the idea of cheating on my husband, or even contemplating it.  It’s beyond comprehension to me and I couldn’t relate to her struggle with it.  I found myself becoming very frustrated with that part of her story.

I was hoping that because this book was written by a military spouse (rather than just about them), it would be truer to the military spouse lifestyle I see everyday. In reality, it still perpetuated a few of the stereotypes I (and so many of us) hate.

But perhaps that’s the good thing about this book: it shows another facet of military spouse life. It may not be the facet that I relate to or the one that I agree with, but it’s there. Sarah’s experience as a military spouse is just as valid as my own, even though they are very different.

If military spouses are going to claim to be a diverse group that can’t be stereotyped or neatly categorized, we need to acknowledge all experiences as valid and worthy of respect, even if they’re ones we don’t agree with.

Have you ever read a book that presents a life of experiences so very different than your own, but that you still recognize as valid? Can there be a continuum of the military spouse lifestyle?

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