Mrs. Lieutenant: A Sharon Gold Novel. Phyllis Zimbler Miller. Create Space. April 2008. 494 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9781419686290.
The early 1970s is a difficult time in American history. The Vietnam War is in full swing, surrounded by patriotic men who sign up to fight this war to save America from the spread of Communism and the protesters who face armed violence but refuse to back down against a war they believe is totally unjust . In the middle of this pitched battle are the wives of four officers undergoing special training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. They represent four types of women throughout America, a Jew, an African-American, a Southern Baptist and a Puerto Rican. They have received a booklet by the name of Mrs. Lieutenant, a book whose contents they are to read and obey without question, rules that determine the success or failure of their husband’s officer training program.
It sounds a simple enough plot yet there is so much complexity representative of this actual historical period of bloodshed and strife. Yes, there is the obvious prejudice that depicts the anguish of being a Jew or black person in a white, “Southern” mentality Army; but always threading the conscious conformity lie the fears and questions of those who knew that orders to Vietnam meant death or at the least permanent mental anguish from what is seen, heard and done during that time. For instance, what of the custom of “fragging” which means the killing of an officer by discontent men who lack respect for their leader? Those who are older might think they know everything about these years and scarring memories, but this novel will open the eyes of many.
What about the tension that mounts to snapping point and winds up in the near-death of a man and the actual death of the one who has flipped? What about a woman who has lost one husband and is now faced with the death of another to this man-eating war that promises disaster no matter how well one is trained? These and so many more questions are addressed in this monumentally simple yet profound account of historical fiction that is replete with too much painful and yet proud reality? Quite a job well-done, right down to the raw emotions, memories, and imagined scenarios for the present and future replete on every page for Vietnam era participants! Read it and reflect on its theme about tomorrow’s possibilities!