Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line” as Want to Read:
Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  597 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Anthony Swofford's Jarhead in this powerful literary memoir of a young Army recruit driven to prove herself in a man's world.
Raised by powerful women in a restrictive, sheltered Christian community in New England, Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruit
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Grand Central Publishing
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Formation, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Formation

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.21  · 
Rating details
 ·  597 ratings  ·  109 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Formation: A Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: forever-shelf
(As a retired Army Senior Noncommisioned Officer and OIF Veteran, I celebrate and honor the warrior who is Ryan. And yes... PTSD is a m----er f----er!)

In her book, "Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line," author Ryan Leigh Dostie narrates her personal experiences as a soldier in combat–at work and at home–engaged in a battle to survive not only war, but the most personal betrayal imaginable, rape by another soldier. This autobiographical recounting of, and accounting for a female s
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
You don't want to miss it...this is the memoir that will make a huge impact for it gives voice to female veterans and servicewomen. ...more
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Ellen Read
Recommended to paulinereidbookreviewer by: Ellen Read
Shelves: war
Book Review/Book Recommendation
Author - Ryan Dostie

Hardback - 358 pages
Genre - memoir

TRIGGER WARNING - Rape issues and self harm.

My thoughts
I won this book as a giveaway about a year ago, through Instagram/Bookstagram that Kara Harte hosted ......

The first chapter did it for me, like Ryan Dostie, the drink that lured her to her bed, lured me into reading more... I wanted more of this. You know, as I grew to know more about "what really goes on in an army behind closed doors" that blaz
Cassandra Paine
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Without giving it away, this book is a journey. A journey some may recognize as one like their own, while others may find it somewhat foreign yet still relatable.

You don't have to be military to appreciate this tale. She does a great job breaking down the nuance that might otherwise go over the civilian head.

And the heart of her story is not just about "an incident," but about a life. A life formed by many experiences: many people, many places, and many moments of fear, doubt, confidence, expe
Jun 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, women
I devoured this book in 2 days, living in Ryan's skin, not breathing very well when she couldn't. It's an amazing book, and makes you re-think what you think you know about those first tours in Iraq, PTSD, depression, the simple fact of being female, and how one claws back from trauma. I'm so glad that I saw Aimee Mann's recommendation on Instagram, because I might not have found it otherwise. What an amazing woman, and what an amazing piece of writing. ...more
Dec 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you are looking for a fantastic coming-of-age memoir that will give you SO much to think about, I have the book for you.  Formation is the incredible true story of a woman joining the army and leaving behind all that is familiar. 

Growing up in a sheltered Christian community, Ryan strikes up a conversation with an Army recruiter (who visits her high school), that leads her to sign up to join the troops.

Ryan is hired as a linguist and finds the environment challenging, as a woman and as som
Kara Harte (KattitudeReads)
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“A few hours before I am raped, two officers in a bar try to corner me and steal my panties.” And with that jarring first line, Formation by Ryan Leigh Dostie begins, hitting the ground running. A lyrically written novel that embodies the Hemingway quote, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein,” Dostie lays bare the deepest depths of herself in this debut memoir. In boldly and candidly telling her truth, Dostie inspires.

Formation dives right into the
Dave Wolfe
Jun 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: I know the author. I don't think I would have read this book otherwise. Put that fact aside. I was not fully aware of what Ryan went though during her time in the military. In discussions with her over the years, I found out she was raped by a fellow soldier; that the army tried to downplay it; and that she has suffered from PTSD. However, all of this was more like a basic outline of her full story.

Formation captivated me. That was partially due to my friendship with Ryan. But
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I finished this book last night. I did not enjoy it at all. I read as a hobby and for entertainment. It's hard for me to 'not like' someone's life or experiences but if you put it in book form and put it out there and sell it, I guess I have the right to not like it. I made myself finish it hoping the poor main character's life would get better and it did, finally after a long torturous journey, but our main character was so beat up and worn down she couldn't tell good from bad or be happy. So s ...more
Patricia O'Neill
Jan 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE. Book clubs especially
Stunning. Inspiring. Raw. Real. Read this book.

I received an early copy of Formation and could not put it down. This is a story that needs to be shared. A sharp, honest account of one woman's experiences. She's not a victim or a martyr but a real woman living a real and raw life. The courage and self-reflection it takes to bring this story to the world is awesome. The writing is superb, and draws the reader in to feel and process experiences with the author. It's truth, painful and beautiful.

Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"At the start and end of the work day my rapist and I stand in formation together. This is a certainty. But at least in formation I know where he is. I see him. I mark his space and his distance from mine, a mental measuring tape that I try to stretch as far as allowed. It's the time between those forced encounters that terrorize me though."

Ryan gives a voice to females everywhere in this moving memoir. I found myself letting out my breath when I didn't even know I was holding it. This book will
Harold Walters
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This book should be left behind when soldiers move from place to place so over time hundreds (thousands?) of soldiers get to read it.
This was such a brutal, savage, uncomfortable read, and I am glad I read it. Dostie's honesty is raw and hard to read at times, but it's also so necessary to furthering our understanding of trauma, rape, and the problematic culture not just of our military, but American culture at large.

Reading about Dostie's assault and its aftermath hurts. It hurts to witness how indifferent the military was to her, how eager it was to bury her report because it just didn't want to deal with it. It hurts to se
Anne S
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-read
This book caught my attention, grabbed my attention and kept it through the entire book!
This is the story about a young woman who joined the Army to become a Japanese Linguist, only to be told she was going to be learning Persian Farsi. For those of you who don't know, the Army will promise you lots but "the needs of the Army come first" and where you end up, you end up!

She gets to Ft Sill, Oklahoma and ends up getting raped by a fellow soldier, only to be told by her higher command, it didn't h
Rebecca Reynolds
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dostie's memoir is well written with an important message. Actually, many important messages. It's a book about rape. It's a book about war. It's a book about PTSD. If you have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, this book is important because it lets you know you're not alone. If you have been deployed in the Army and felt the after effects of deployment, you will know you're not alone. If you have felt a struggle with mental illness, you will know you're not alone. And if you haven't e ...more
Kate Arismendez
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Being a woman stepping into a man’s world is one thing. Being victimized, ignored, lied to by their own leaders is another.
In the Army, the chain of command is supposed to mold the young soldiers, teach them to be obedient, teach them to give and receive respect, and teach them to care for one another. They are the surrogate mother and father to the young soldiers after they enlist. Ryan Dostie’s chain of command failed her when she needed them most.
When Ryan Dostie was raped by a fellow soldi
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I can count on the fingers of one hand the nonfiction that has made me cry, and Formation is one of them.

Here's the thing. This book is hard to read. It is rough. Not because it's bad, but because it is stunningly, blindingly good. Powerful. So deeply personal it feels intrusive to read it at times. But it tells so many important messages about so many things - rape culture, mental health, fat shaming and fat phobia, the damage that religious purety culture can cause... the general complexity o
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This story is so much more than the assault she experienced, even though it’s clearly a vein through everything. It’s about women in the military. Combat. Women in combat. And all that comes with it including PTSD.

I’m thankful our book club had this in our list. I wouldn’t have read it otherwise and would have missed out on a lot I never took the time to learn about.
Amanda Rogozinski
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really couldn't put this book down. It contains so many emotions and a clear-eyed honesty that is surprisingly relatable despite the uniqueness of Ryan's experience, and makes you feel like you know the author. I appreciated that it didn't ring of bitterness or anger for wrongs suffered, but had the maturity of perspective. I expected it to be a feminist rant, but instead it probed good questions. ...more
Amy Rene
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Facing my truth

I spent 10 years on active duty before the Army broke me physically and mentally. After getting out 3 months ago, I’ve been processing so many feeling about my own assaults on active duty while carrying the stories of hundreds of military sexual assault survivors I worked with over the years. Everyone in the military should read this book. Everyone who loves someone with PTSD should read this book. Thank you, Ryan, for opening eyes.
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Raw and devastating. Unlike any book I've ever read. I just can't stop thinking about it ...more
Jennifer Wagner
Jun 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a phenomenal memoir of a woman’s experience in the army. It is smart and complicated and well written. From both a literary and personal perspective it’s utterly compelling.
Kelly Pavlik
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
This book starts off with an event that might make one not want to read it.
If you can make it past that event you get a feeling of the sheltered life and how it impacts one's life in the military.
A memoir in three acts: the crisis, in which the author endures a terrible sexual assault and is neglected by her command to a degree that, I think, warrants throwing the entire UCMJ book at the whole lot of them; the war, a chaotic interlude in which Dostie shelves her trauma for more than a year to survive in Iraq immediately following 9/11; and the aftermath, in which Dostie must finally confront herself as she navigates the highs and lows of PTSD, both from combat and from rape.

Dostie's sto
Donna Bijas
Jul 31, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Honestly have mixed feelings about this book. The writing is excellent, very detailed and precise. It’s also really honest and soul-searching. She is an amazing woman, but a rape while in the armed forces, not believed, coupled with PTSD after Iraq and depression made this mind-blowing and I found myself unsympathetic at times which bothered me, particularly after reading the acknowledgement section. It’s certainly worth reading, but it’s not easy and sometimes not enjoyable. I hope s ...more
Jan 09, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir

I hated this book

author confesses several times to various demons she lives with - one in her belly, one on her shoulder, one between her ribs and one in her head

she used to be a Christian but is now enlightened to 'the truth' and worships Ishtar

she is mentally ill and was on this path even before the sexual assault

she uses the f-word and other vulgarities on almost every page to prove how masculine she is along with vile descriptions of her violent imaginations

her book should convince an
Apr 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What remarkable
courage in the face of turbulence throughout life!
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
This was an incredible 5+ star read - a book I would recommend to every American. Dostie presents an absolutely infuriating and eye-opening story about her years as a woman in the US Army. She has a fascinating life in general - she grew up in a fundamentalist Christian society (basically a cult) in Massachusetts; she taught herself Japanese as a teenager; joined the military to become a linguist immediately after graduating high school; and learned Persian-Farsi at the military’s Defense Langua ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to win an ARC of FORMATION- A WOMAN'S MEMOIR OF STEPPING OUT OF LINE, otherwise I might have missed out because there are few copies in my library systems, and I don't recall a big publicity push in the reviews that I read. I hope that changes because RYAN LEIGH DOSTIE'S story deserves to be told and she should be appreciated and recognized for what she gave up in order to serve this country as an Army soldier in the first Iraq invasion.

I've never read anything like this. It is
Nancy Kennedy
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Ryan Leigh Dostie was an adventurous young woman who joined the Army as a linguist after spending a year abroad as a student in Japan. She describes herself as a risk-taker, and at every opportunity she tries to prove her standing in the male-dominated world in which she lands. She trains hard, drinks hard, talks tough and soldiers on.

But Ryan is a also a confused young woman who finds it hard to stand up for herself when she lands in dicey situations. She grew up in a sheltered, female-dominate
« previous 1 3 4 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • We Came Here to Forget
  • Assume Nothing: A Story of Intimate Violence
  • One True Thing
  • Sing To Me: My Story of Making Music, Finding Magic, and Searching for Who's Next
  • The Hospital: Life, Death, and Dollars in a Small American Town
  • Can't Help Falling: The Long Road to Motherhood
  • Let's Talk About Pep
  • Clouds: A Memoir
  • This Kind of Love: The Overwhelming Power of Promises, Patience, and Faith
  • I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny
  • The Warehouse
  • The Great Peace: A Memoir
  • November Road
  • Windswept: Walking the Paths of Trailblazing Women
  • Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam
  • In Praise of Paths: Walking through Time and Nature
  • The Prettiest Star
See similar books…
See top shelves…
Ryan Leigh Dostie is a novelist turned soldier turned novelist. As an Army Persian-Farsi/Dari Linguist in Military Intelligence, she was deployed to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom I and II (2003-2004). She holds an MFA in fiction writing and a bachelor’s degree in History from Southern Connecticut State University. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with her husband, her wondrously wild dau ...more

Related Articles

August has arrived with plenty of interesting destinations for the discerning summer reader—from spooky offshore islands to an...
113 likes · 24 comments