Book Review of Spouse Calls.
There are times when an author and a book speak directly to your soul. When the author describes in beautiful language every burden and weight that you didn’t even realize you were carrying. When you find yourself nodding at each chapter and saying, “Yes! Exactly, that’s how I feel!” For military spouses, the book Spouse Calls will give you that delightful experience.
The full title is Spouse Calls, Messages from a military life. The book, written by Terri Barnes, is a compilation of her best columns from the military newspaper Stars and Stripes. Barnes wrote Spouse Calls weekly from 2007 until 2015. She shares her wealth of experiences in military life, from growing up with a father in the Air Force, to marrying back into the Air Force and raising 3 military kids of her own. Now with her husband retired and her children grown, Barnes continues to support the military community with her book. She is now the Special Projects editor for Elva Resa Publishing, which specializes in books for the military community. Whether you have been married to the military for most of your life, or are just entering military life, you will be consoled and encouraged by the stories in Spouse Calls. The book is like a serving of chicken soup for the military spouse soul.
The Spouse Calls book includes all the themes of military life
With chapters about friendships, notable leaders in the military spouse community, constant moves, sad sacrifices, and missed holidays, Barnes writes poignantly about some of the memorable moments that are a rite of passage for military life. All dependents have ID cards, experience PCSing away from family, and prepare for deployments. But most of the time we are too wrapped up in our own emotions to reflect on the experiences. Barnes is able to look back on a life of military experiences—good and bad—and weave together events from multiple duty stations. Whether she reflects on memories from 2013 or from her childhood in the 70’s, the colors of her stories are just as vibrant because of her descriptive writing.
New military spouses will learn from the Spouse Calls book
Younger military spouses can learn a lot from Barnes’ positive approach to military life. At one of her first duty stations, Guam, a typhoon struck the island just before Thanksgiving. She was frustrated trying to prepare a large dinner for guests, when the power was out all over the island, and generators couldn’t power the fridge and oven. The neighborhood banded together and took turns cooking in the large industrial ovens at the base chapel. Barnes writes, “I was a long way from home, but also a long way from true hardship.” Instead of focusing on the frustrating challenges of living overseas, Barnes found reasons to be grateful that her family was together and well-fed.
Seasoned Spouses can relate to everything in Spouse Calls
Older military spouses will appreciate a lot in this book, too. As a “seasoned spouse” myself, I found some of her chapters refreshing, because Barnes is a military spouse who has been there, done that, and managed to see the humor every time. She truly gets it when it comes to the nomadic lifestyle of constant PCS moves, making new friends, finding work at a new duty station, and traveling all over the country to see family and friends. Many times, she shares the irony the military’s small world: running into old friends at new duty stations. She even shares the story of her pumpkin cookie recipe, which traveled from one neighbor to another, around the world, until a military spouse friend hand-delivered some of the cookies to Barnes’ son when he was away at college! “When you give a neighbor a plate of cookies, you never know where they might turn up.”
The Spouse Calls book discusses the sacrifices of military life
Spouse Calls is not all lighthearted memories, however. Barnes’s network of military contacts includes many accounts of sacrifice. She discusses everything from military support organizations to military spouse caregivers, to children attending their parent’s funeral. In some cases, like the story “Invisible Wounds: Voices of Experience,” she includes the comments and discussions that readers left on the Spouse Calls blog over the years. The comments show the depth of pain caused by PTSD, but also the strength of the military community to support its own.
Spouse Calls highlights the challenges and accomplishments of military kids
The overall themes of Spouse Calls are community, support, and positive encouragement. Barnes says it is “the story of the people we know and the life we live in the neighborhood of our American military life.” Barnes exemplifies the Seasoned Spouse, who has friends all over the world, is an expert at making a house a home, and has taught her children to adjust smoothly to life’s many changes. I enjoyed reading some of the articles by Barnes’ children, military “brats” who lived all over the world, and have now graduated high school and college. The story “Foreign,” written by Barnes’ son when he was in high school, shows at the same time the unique challenges and the special opportunities of being a military child. Yes, they are always the new kids at school. But they bring with them the strength and ability to make new friends over and over again. Military kids will always be interesting because of the fact that they have lived and experienced different places. Since my own military children have only started elementary school, it was reassuring to see the grace with which Barnes’ military kids have handled moving and changing schools so often.
No matter where you are on your own military journey, you will find encouragement in Barnes’s book Spouse Calls. If you have never experienced PCSing or deployments, it will be very reassuring to see how her positive attitude carried her family through a full-length career of military service. If you have already had your fair share of military life, you will find yourself nodding and laughing along with Barnes. After all, this life is what we make it. In Spouse Calls, Barnes makes military life a beautiful portrait of friendship.
The Spouse Calls book is available on Amazon, and makes an excellent gift to a military family! If you liked this, you will also enjoy the book Stories Around the Table, which is a compilation of stories from many military spouses. Terri Barnes is an author and editor of that book. If you prefer eBooks, an excellent choice is Modern Military Spouse. The link below (affiliate link) will jump you to the eBook sales page.
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I highlight one new book each month, written by a military spouse, and review it here for my readers. Have you read any good military spouse books recently? Have you written one? Please let me know, and I will review it soon!