Take a walk in Army reservist Molly McKinney's boots as she serves our country in Afghanistan and confronts a minefield of interpersonal relationships. Men and women from all walks of life are thrown together on what they call the “rock" or "Hell on earth." The story follows Molly as she adjusts to her new reality of living in a combat zone, learns the ropes of prison life, and realizes the many complexities of war.
Born in Chicago, Molly barely out of her teens is an aspiring doctor who joined the Army Reserve pre-911, mainly to pay for medical school. She is a breath of fresh air in the hot, dusty, hell-hole the soldiers temporarily call home. Molly, with her battle buddy Osborne, a quirky seductress, work alongside active duty troops as MP’s (Military Police) stationed at a prison camp. The insurgents, assumed to have Taliban connections, some awaiting transit to Guantanamo Bay, often fall on the thin line between very scary and somewhat ridiculous.
Molly’s life becomes a rollercoaster of fear, passion, pain, and boredom as she guards captured insurgents and she soon realizes that she too is a prisoner of the desolate, and unbearably hot prison. Molly becomes drawn to a quick witted, shameless soldier named Spc. Shaw to get through the long and mundane days of the prison. As her feelings for Shaw grow so does her loathing for the insanely handsome, yet robotic, Sgt. Beck.
Sgt. Beck makes it clear on day one that Molly is unfit for the job. In his attempts to take her down he begins to see the true measure of her resilience, courage, determination and fiery temper. As Molly battles her 12-hour work schedule, sleep deprivation, camel spiders and a host of other obstacles while living in a combat zone, Beck, who is sleeping with Molly’s friend, entrusts Molly with a more personal side of himself. As Beck's guard lowers, so does Molly’s and their friendship becomes unbreakable. But when tragedy strikes Molly realizes that some people are not at all what they appear to be.
9/11 affected all of us. I still remember exactly where I was and what I was doing at that moment of that awful morning. Many novels have been written about this tragic day, the loss and the heroes that emerged whilst a country that stood together punched but strong.
Although it has been some years, I can see how this is an experience one would want to write about as this novel loosely is inspired by the authors own experience on tour in Afghanistan after 9/11.
Molly, the main character in this story has signed up for the Reserve to cover college expenses. Not long after her training and in between college years, she receives orders to go to Afghanistan for a year. Her work there is comprised of guarding prisoners of the worst kind. As any "new" arrival at her duty station she is assigned the “shittiest” job literally, which is cleaning out the port-a-pots of the prison! (Thankfully new soldiers are arriving all the time…so the next ones can have a turn at it too!)
We follow her along with the friends she makes through their daily activities and learn a bit of military lingo on the way (for those that aren’t familiar with such things). Molly’s friends are comprised from all backgrounds and statuses; thus, you will get a real sense of the sacrifice these soldiers are making. They all have a life back home they had to leave…and for some of them the unthinkable happens while they are deployed.
Being deployed in is no fun, and sometimes you have some bad apples among your comrades. Cheating on spouses, sexual harassment, as well as consensual hook-ups happen all the time. Behind buildings, in corners ect. Besides the great friendships Molly builds, these things factor into her experiences on deployment.
Up until midway, the primary focus of the novel was describing the daily work and life at camp. You get a glimpse at what kind of people are in the prison and how they in some cases have to be treated and the thread they pose to the guards. Also, comradery, banter and friendships were front and center of the novel and made me chuckle many times. After the halfway point of the novel, a lot of romance enters as Molly was falling for two guys and it turned a bit into a coming of age love triangle after that. (Understandably, as she went to Catholic school and had no experiences really). An unfortunate combination if you ask me with so many people thrown together. However, I am sure it’s not unheard of.
So how did her tour in Afghanistan end? How much heartache did she have to witness and endure? A swift wrap up of the novel will give you all the answers. But is it a happy end?
This was a very engaging read. Funny and touching at times, and hair raising/frightening at others. As a spouse of a military veteran for over twenty years, with doing my duty in supporting the many missions and tours we have endured and years spent apart through deployments, I want to say, that I have pretty much heard it all and I kept that in perspective while reading. Molly’s narrative is from a female characters perspective deployed many years ago, when different measures or lack thereof where in place, then there are today. In one review I read about this book, it was criticized that Molly's experiences imply that all male soldiers are dogs! I understand the criticism, but if you read carefully, you will see that neither gender is the purer one in this. I also want to say that the focus here wasn't all about sexual harassment in the novel.
Deployments are tough all around for all involved.
If I had to criticize anything about the novel it would be that in minor instances, (- like running into the arms of your love interest in the open while out on deployment (strictly forbidden btw.)) there was some bending of the military conduct code to accommodate the novel. There also was too much romance for my taste and it needed to delve a bit more into the military/political aspects and conflict. However, it was very engaging, wittily written and it will stay with me for sure. I hope to see what else J.D. Wynne will write after this. Staying tuned for more 😊
I was graciously given the e-book by the author in exchange of an honest review. Thank you kindly!