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- Stranger Than Fiction (Real Life)
- Teresa Reveals the CONFESSIONS OF A TRUE ROMANTIC
- CHRISTINA DODD HAS A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY
- Christina Dodd Exposes the Glamour of Booktour
- Christina Dodd Treats You to an Extra Excerpt of IN BED WITH THE DUKE!
- GIRLFRIENDS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN Contest!
- Connie Brockway Posts Incriminating New Video
- SPOIL ME! BY CELEBRATING THE GOLDEN SEASON’S PUB DATE, TODAY!
- Teresa Says It Loud and Says It Proud: I WRITE ROMANCE NOVELS!!!
- CHRISTINA DODD SAYS “IT’S CHRISTMAS! DUCK!”
- Teresa Needs Your Help to Choose the SEXIEST MAN DEAD!
I originally picked up THE YOKOTA OFFICERS CLUB, Sarah Bird’s novel/memoir about growing up as an Air Force brat in the 50s and 60s (among other things) for my mom, so she’d have something to read in the hospital after her recent shoulder-replacement surgery. Although my dad was in the Marines when my parents met, he didn’t make a career out of the military as Bird’s father evidently did, and Bird’s protagonist was a child ten years before I and my brothers were. But it looked like an interesting book, and I’d heard good things about Sarah Bird’s other novels, so into my purse it went the day I took my mom to the hospital. To keep myself occupied that day, I brought along my laptop, thinking I’d get some writing done in the quiet waiting room while she was in surgery.
Hospital waiting rooms aren’t what they used to be. Or what you see on TV. The place was packed with scores of anxious people (And do you realize how much louder people talk when they’re anxious?), and two TVs blaring--that particular morning with continuous coverage of a terrible train wreck in the next county that caused chemicals to burn and neighborhoods to be evacuated.
Not an atmosphere conducive to creativity--or calmness. More an atmosphere conducive to wanting something to take me away from that atmosphere. So OUT of my purse came YOKOTA OFFICERS CLUB. Within moments, I was thousands of miles--and several decades--away from that hospital waiting room.
I should have realized when the book opened on a bumpy plane ride what kind of novel I was in for. There are enough dips and lifts and loop-de-loops in the story to keep any reader swiftly flipping the pages. We are immediately introduced to protagonist Bernie Root, eldest daughter of the nomadic and tightly-knit Root family. At eighteen, she’s just completed her first year of college--and her first year away from the closeness and protection of her family. She’s changed a lot during that year, thanks to that separation and the tumultuous society of the late 60s, but she’s surprised to discover, when she joins her family at her father’s most recent post--Okinawa--that her family has changed a lot, too.
We gradually learn that the events that sent her family into a downward spiral actually began when Bernie was a child and her family was stationed in Japan. Something happened there that involved the family’s much loved housekeeper Fumiko, whom they’ve all been forbidden to mention since. The story is a mix of Bernie’s trying to understand the changes that have overcome her family, and solve the mystery of what happened to Fumiko.
Not to say that the book is a mystery. It’s not. It’s a snapshot of a time and a way of life that no longer exist, when things were both simpler and more complicated than they are now. Although labeled a novel, thanks to the book’s dedication and an interview with the author afterward, it’s clear that A LOT of what Bird writes about is less from her imagination than from her memory.
What’s interesting is that the book begins in the present tense, and, as a reader, I normally find present tense pretty annoying to read. But I didn’t even notice it until the book slipped into past tense for the part of the story that begins twelve years earlier in Japan. And the music. Not surprisingly, I loved how the music of the time was woven in to the story, and how often I recognized references to 60s pop culture. (Some of Bernie’s siblings were my age at the time the story takes place.) It was like taking a trip back in time.
Bernie is an engaging, wry, funny, sometimes even snarky narrator, but she has a poet-like eye for the details of the scenes that unfold around her. Both the Okinawa and Yokota Air Bases are recreated so vividly, I can smell the carnival hot dogs and the burning jet fuel. She captures the family dynamics of that time beautifully. And she describes frankly and with both humor and pathos the plight of the prostitutes whose livelihoods depend on the military and whose presence in that society, and this story, is inescapable. But don’t let that scare you away. Overall the book is uplifting, funny, sweet and poignant. I absolutely loved it.
Oh, and don’t worry. I picked up another book for my mom in the hospital gift shop.
So has anyone else read THE YOKOTA OFFICERS CLUB? Who’s a military brat here? (Besides Terri, I mean?) What kind of memories of military life do you remember fondly? (And be sure to check back tonight, when we post the winner of the Valentine’s Day romantic advice contest!)