War Ready: In My Father's Shadow
by Mary Lou Darst

"Loose objects became missiles that were hurled at us. Never have I experienced such anger. Never had I seen my mother so upset or my father so aloof and reserved."

To an outsider, Darst's childhood might seem like one fantastic adventure after another. Seeing the Northern Lights in Alaska, going to school in an exotic place like Japan, or experiencing the sights and wonders of European culture and embarking on a Mediterranean cruise while living in Germany might appear on the surface to be life at its finest. But what those who have grown up in only one or two locations often fail to see is the tremendous pain of loss and the struggle for acceptance that dependent children of military personnel frequently face as they transition from one posting to another every few years. In her poignant memoir, the author pulls back the curtain to show how the joy of new experiences can be interwoven with sorrow.

Part of what made Darst's youth more difficult was her complex relationship with her father. Although there were some obvious signs that he cared for his family, he also expected them to be soldiers like he was. She recalls his harshness and criticisms frequently than his kindness and compassion, and she felt his coldness more often than his warmth. Being far away from the love of her extended family in America for long periods of time didn't help matters either, and the unsmiling stares or dark looks that many Japanese gave her in those early post-war years only served to exacerbate the problem. Yet there were many positive experiences, as well, and the relationships she developed with people like Mama-san, Hatsie, and the Gruckenbergs helped her through the tough times and created wonderful memories.

The author's well-written memoir offers some fascinating glimpses into what life was like in the 1950s for U.S. military families stationed in Japan and Germany. It should especially appeal to military and missionary families who may share similar experiences.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review.

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