“A raw, intimate look at the impact of combat and the healing power of friendship” (People): the lives of three women deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq, and the effect of their military service on their personal lives and families—named a best book of the year by Publishers Weekly.
“In the tradition of Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, Richard Rhodes, and other masters of literary journalism, Soldier Girls is utterly absorbing, gorgeously written, and unforgettable” (The Boston Globe). Helen Thorpe follows the lives of three women over twelve years on their paths to the military, overseas to combat, and back home…and then overseas again for two of them. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends, and we watch their interaction and also what happens when they are separated. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home. We see some of them drink too much, have affairs, and react to the deaths of fellow soldiers. And we see what happens to one of them when the truck she is driving hits an explosive in the road, blowing it up. She survives, but her life may never be the same again.
Deeply reported, beautifully written, and powerfully moving, Soldier Girls is “a breakthrough work...What Thorpe accomplishes in Soldier Girls is something far greater than describing the experience of women in the military. The book is a solid chunk of American history...Thorpe triumphs” (The New York Times Book Review).
Journalist Thorpe (Just Like Us) tells the moving story of three women in the Indiana National Guard who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Following her subjects from 2001 to 2013, Thorpe draws on interviews, personal correspondence, emails, diaries, medical records, and even therapists' notes to portray their lives before, during, and after deployments. Michelle Fisher, a "music-loving... left-leaning" college student; Desma Brooks, a single mom with three children and three jobs; and Debbie Helton, a grandmother in her 50s and one of the longest-serving females in the National Guard, had different reasons for enlisting before 9/11. Not expecting to go to war, the three women bonded during their service in Afghanistan as part of the 113th Support Battalion at Camp Phoenix in Kabul. Through the years in Afghanistan, where they diligently fulfilled their duties and struggle to adapt to military culture; in their return to civilian life; in the redeployment of two of them to Iraq their support for each another never wavers. They speak openly about their drinking, illicit affairs, and struggles to fit in among a civilian population that seems oblivious to either war. Highlighting how profoundly military service changed their lives and the lives of their families this visceral narrative illuminates the role of women in the military, the burdens placed on the National Guard, and the disproportionate burden of these wars borne by the poor.