When 45-year-old Ellen Michaels loses her husband to a tragic military accident, she is left in a world of gray. For 25 years her life has been dictated by the ubiquitous They—the military establishment that has included her like chattel with John’s worldly goods—his Dependents, Furniture, and Effects. They—who have stolen her hopes, her dreams and her innocence, and now in mere months will take away the roof over her head. Ellen is left with nothing to hold on to but memories and guilt and an awful secret that has held her in its grip since she was 19. John’s untimely death takes away her anchor, and now, without the military, there is no one to tell her where to go, what to do— no one to dictate who she is. Dependent deals with issues ever-present in today’s service families—early marriage, frequent long absences, the culture of rank, and posttraumatic stress, as well as harassment and abuse of power by higher-ranking officials. It presents a raw and realistic view of life for the lives of the invisible support behind the uniform.
This book was so hard to read. I don’t say that negatively. In fact, I say it as praise. This beautifully written narrative is so honest, so raw – and that is rare. Author Brenda Corey Dunne handles the tough issues of this story with such grace and she glosses over nothing, which is a difficult skill. Though there is a lot of darkness in this book, there is also light. Hope and the triumph of struggle. The complex beauty of courage.
Content note: Occasional use of foul language, occasional sexual references, and situations of rape and abuse, some descriptive.