Monday, January 24, 2011

First Book Review: I LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM (1 of 26)

In one of my first posts of the New Year, I made a public pledge to read 26 books in 2011. That's right. Twenty-six books. In three hundred and sixty-five days. One book every two weeks. Easy, right?

Well...I knew from the start it was going to be aggressive, especially considering I maybe read three total in 2010. But, I was inspired by my love of reading and desire to do more of it this year. So here I am in the last full week of January about to report out on my first book...And realizing I need to start bringing my A game.

Regardless, first up: I LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM by Lily Burana.

The lead sentence on the back cover reads: "An all-American love story about a former punk-rock stripper and her unlikely marriage to an officer in the U.S. Army." Who wouldn't be intrigued?

The book was recommended to me by a friend at work. She shared a great column that Burana had written for the Modern Love section of The New York Times on Veterans Day, and suggested I take it a step further and read the full memoir.

As I think about how I want to approach the reviews for each of my 26 books this year, I think I may try to follow a somewhat standard format. Rather than detailing out every aspect of the book (because that would take all the fun out of it for you if you actually decide to read it!), I'm going to try to focus on providing a brief description, my take, one thing I liked, one thing I thought could have been better and key takeaways for each book. With that...

The Deets
I LOVE A MAN IN UNIFORM walks readers through the love story between Lily and her officer husband, Mike. From Lily's point of view, we learn about their first meeting in a cemetery, the progression of their relationship and decision to marry. And then we get to go along on her very personal journey of adjusting to military culture, struggling through her husband's deployment and overcoming the depression that threatens her marriage.

My Take
It was lovely. Touching and honest, and in some instances, painful.

What I Liked
I love that Burana brings wit and style to every single page. Despite dealing with some very difficult issues, she can still title chapters with "Embrace the Suck?" or "Simple as Alpha Bravo Charlie" - titles that make you smile and maybe even giggle to yourself a bit. I also like that she infuses some of her former self into the story. The contrast between her life as a stripper and her life as a military wife is like night and day, and yet, she relates many of her present day experiences back to her past in an intriguing and thought-provoking way.

What I Thought Could Have Been Better
Sometimes, I couldn't tell if I should treat each individual chapter as a separate story or if I should be reading it as if in chronological order. It kind of bugged me when I'd think one chapter was a natural progression into the next and then it wasn't. Really a small gripe overall.

My Takeaways*
At one point, Burana reflects on how deeply the news about Abu Ghraib in April 2004 affected her. I read this section with a keen interest. Not because I had a strong reaction to her sentiment, but more so because I realized I was only vaguely aware. Sure, I remember hearing names like Lynndie England and I recall the drama that surrounded Donald Rumsfeld (I was a PR major in a Journalism department afterall). But, immediately after reading about Abu Ghraib in the book, I went to the Internet in search of more information because I felt embarrassingly uninformed. It made me reflect on where I was in my life in April 2004, and where I am today. With news and current events being such an important part of my life today, I can't imagine having only vague awareness of such a pivotal event in our nation's history. I guess that's one key difference between me as a college senior and me today.

Next up: The Friday Night Knitting Club.

*I realize that I may not always learn something in every book I read or walk away with profound thoughts, but when I do, I'll be sure to report.


  1. Gassie, I'd love to read this book now that you're done, and Friday Might Knitting Club. I've had my eye on that for a while at're going to be my official book critic for the year.

  2. Book critic? I like the sound of that :)

  3. I'm inspired by your project, Angie. What a great structure for the posts, too! I don't think I'll have as much time for reading this year so I'm eagerly awaiting your future reviews. :) Keep them coming & happy reading.

  4. I like the format you've decided to use for the reviews. I don't always read book reviews because people give too much away. I'd probably like this book, although I do like them to flow.

    I loved Friday Night Knitting Club and Knit Two. I haven't read the one that came out at Christmas yet. I'm always reading something.

  5. Kara - I can't imagine reading more books than you in any given year. Now that you're a mom, I might finally have a chance to catch up ;)

    Sue - thanks for getting me excited about Friday Night Knitting Club; I'm cruising through to chapter two!