Heidi Willis's Reviews > Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives

Under the Sabers by Tanya Biank
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's review
Aug 17, 2010

really liked it
Read from August 10 to 17, 2010

I picked up Under the Sabers because I knew it was the inspiration for the TV show Army Wives.

Under the Sabers is a non-fiction book that follows four Army wives stationed at Fort Bragg the two years prior to the shocking summer in which four Army wives were murdered within a 6 month period. The author does a great job in showing how the Army affects marriages and the role that it plays in a family without condemning the military.

I was afraid, starting the book, that the moral of the story would be that the Army was the cause of the murders at Fort Bragg, and that the stories of these wives would illustrate how the Army breaks down marriages. Thankfully, the author, a journalist, does a great job of examining the relationships in such a way that you can see how the strong ones will survive no matter what, and the weak ones are destined to fall apart with or without the stress of the military.

Someone not experienced in the military might be hesitant to believe the story of the lives Army wives live: the social pressure, the fascades, the casual adultery. Yet it is exactly these differences that makes Under the Sabers so fascinating and enlightening. It is true: all of it. And while these four women might not be representative of everyone in the military (I've known many who don't fall into one of the categories), they are true representatives nonetheless.

The style of the book reminds me of Dave Cullen's Columbine, although not as well structured. It follows several different characters through their lives prior to an event you already know the outcome to, and somehow manages to still surprise you. At the end, you feel like you know why events unfolded the way they did, and that makes the tragedy even sadder.

An excellent book I'd definitely recommend.

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