I recently had the pleasure of getting a digital advance reading copy of The Long Way Home from Jessica Scott in exchange for a review. I’ve been following her writing career since she released Because of You, which I had bought at the time but hadn’t had a chance to read yet given the size of my TBR pile. She’s active on Facebook and I know a good number of the people she’s working with in her writing career, such as editor Sarah Frantz (whose website I host) and cover artist Shawntelle Madison (who is an active member of Romance Divas, a community of romance writers that I help administrate).
I have to say that I don’t typically read non-fiction books pretty much ever, with the exception of writing reference books or technical reference books. I never was one for the many biographies that my parents had me read while I was being home schooled, and since I’ve been on my own, I’ve never had a lack of fiction books to occupy my time. Quite the opposite; I’ve had a huge lack of time compared to the mounds of books in my long TBR pile (somewhere around 400 books at this point according to GoodReads).
With both of those disclaimers out of the way, I can say that I was absolutely riveted by this book. I started reading just a little bit, curious about it but intending to go back to the fiction book I’m currently working on after a chapter or two. Once I finished that, I was intending to go back to the ARC so that I could write the review for Jessica.
Yeah, so that didn’t happen. I read the book straight through, unable to put it down. It is at times humorous, heart-warming, and heart-breaking. Her writing is real and vivid, and paints a very candid picture that we rarely have the privilege of seeing… the chaos that is involved in the life of a soldier returning home after serving in war time. There have been many books written about soldiers serving in wars, but very few (at least, that I’ve ever heard of) about what happens after they return home. I think that the fact that she is a writer helps her memoirs immensely, as they are the exact opposite of the dry historical reads that most memoirs I have read have been.
In her case, both she and her husband ended up being deployed at the same time. They had to leave their two daughters with her mother while she was deployed for a year, and a good part of the book covers how she had to pick up the pieces of the fractured relationships in their family. Once she says in one of the opening chapters that she was prepared for her daughter to tell her that her daughter didn’t love her anymore, but was completely shocked and heartbroken when her daughter told her that she didn’t believe that she loved her daughter. From that scene on, I was hooked– I had to know how things turned out, and how they got past that as a family.
You get to see her coming back to her role as a mother, and rebuilding her family in the absence of her husband. You get to see the development of her writing career and the struggles she faced along the way (including one of her major writing proposals being denied by the Army ethics committee). And you get to see her as she steps into the role of commander of Fort Hood… and juggles the other two parts of her life as well. And how she deals with the guilt of having left her children behind, even though it was a necessary sacrifice in the name of her country.
This is one of the best books that I’ve had the honor to read this year, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. This is truly one of those books that I wish I could give more than 5/5 stars.
She covers many different topics during the course of the book, including some that are political. However, she approaches each of these from the perspective of how they affect the military, not from the platform of any political party. It’s refreshing to see someone discuss political topics without having any idea what party they belong to, because they left that bias at the door before starting the discussion.
Once I finished with it and sent her some of my comments, I promptly went and read Because of You and the novella sequel Anything for You, both of which I enjoyed immensely as well. I’ve also picked up To Iraq and Back, which is her memoirs of her time serving on that Iraqi deployment, and I’m looking forward to reading it greatly. Jessica is now one of my “must-read” authors, and I recommend that others take the time to get to know her work as well.