I first heard about this book a few years ago, and bought it soon after that. However, I never could quite get in the mood to read it, and that may be a combination of not wanting to read a tear jerker and not wanting to read a civilian's take on the military. I finally read it last month, motivated by my goal to read more novels from my TBR pile and the fact that "name" was one of May's keywords.
The book chronicles the relationship between Dana Canedy, a journalist and modern woman, and Charles King, a professional Soldier. Canedy was a military brat so she knew more about the military lifestyle than the average civilian but it was exactly this knowledge that made her incredibly hesitant to pursue a serious long term relationship with King. Eventually, she realizes that despite the distance and the struggles, she wants to spend her life with King, and the two start trying to have a baby.
Jordan is that baby, and this book is Dana's way of coping with her grief following King's death in combat and leaving a record for her son. Prior to leaving for deployment in Iraq, King wrote a journal for his unborn son, and Canedy peppers her story with quotes from the journal as well as context for the circumstances in which it was written. King did have the opportunity to meet his son and spend two weeks with his family during his R&R, but was killed in the last six weeks of his rotation.
I liked the book for the most part, though it began to feel a bit drawn out in the last half. If these had been fictional characters, I would have been a bit annoyed with many of the religious references but being in the military, I definitely know people with a similar faith to King (they don't tend to be people I hang out with much outside of work, though) - in other words, it was realistic and true to life. I enjoyed how frank and honest Canedy was, though I also wondered at her or King's decision-making process. At various points, Canedy describes issues that arose due to the fact that King and she weren't married. And I certainly understand her reasoning for postponing the wedding ceremony, but King, the actual Soldier, should have known better - they were having (and later had) a child together and planned to marry each other. King wrote his son a journal because he was afraid he might not come back - in that case, get married. I'm not saying they should have planned an elaborate wedding, but all the Army needs to recognize a marriage is a certificate - if King really was worried about dying, they should have gone to the justice of the peace one afternoon and gotten the paperwork. Without the paperwork, the Army doesn't care if you've been together twenty years and have ten kids together - you have no rights. Your kids have rights, but you don't. While Canedy understands this, it is also obvious that she still feels slighted and frustrated because of her treatment due to her lack of legal standing. Generally, I think people get married too soon, but in this particular case, it would have been so helpful to have done the legal part. I know plenty of couples in the Army that get married (in many cases to get ahead start on some paperwork) and then let their families believe that the later, large ceremony is their actual wedding date.
I'm mostly writing all that down not to judge Canedy and King but to make sure that people are aware of this, in case they end up dating a military person, or if they read this book and get mad at her treatment - it's unfortunate but it's the system. Other than that, it was a good book, and since she did have the military upbringing, she definitely had more understanding than perhaps someone else would have in a similar situation, which meant I wasn't getting annoyed with weird mistakes about the military throughout the book.