If you love history, you’ll love Laurel Smith. In her popular First Lines series, she takes readers back through time to ancient civilizations, weaving a tale of intrigue, conflict, and betrayal in the modern world. What better to start your reading with than the infamous boot camp? As confessional as it is entertaining, First Lines offers a unique insight into the way that women and men were separated in earlier times. You’ll find yourself reading along with the main character, trying to make sense of what’s going on, while also enjoying the hilarious banter between her unlikely allies.
Smith starts out as a reluctant participant in the training, afraid of the rigorous routines that follow. In the camp, however, she meets Joanna, a hard-bodied, determined newcomer. Joanna’s strong Christian faith allows her to overcome initial obstacles, and Laurel soon finds herself acting as a go-between for Joanna and the other recruits. Underneath it all, however, is the tragic story of Joanna’s friend Alice, who was unfortunate to lose her own arm in the training. Just when things seem to be looking up for Joanna, circumstances turn even darker.
When you’ve read this intriguing first novel, you’ll no doubt wonder why the author chose to write it in the first person. Smith manages to create a complex yet realistic character, and you’ll struggle to put the book down. Her descriptive writing, the vivid descriptions of military life, and the intricate details of the past and present are vividly depicted. As a military recruit, you will feel part of the action as you are swept from one battlefield to another and taught the same drills and exercises. But, you will also struggle to understand some of the language and some of the quirks of military life.
But, don’t worry. That’s the beauty of this novel. While Smith has managed to create an intricate and well-built character, she doesn’t give much away in terms of story. There is enough plot to keep you reading through, and Smith knows how to effectively set up her scenes and build the book’s momentum. The storyline is told in the first person, and this keeps you interested right from the start because you are interested to see how things unfold, how they change for the soldiers, and how they affect Joanna and Alice in their relationship.
Smith delivers on her promise of providing a vivid description of military life, yet she does this in a way that makes you curious about the characters and the military. You want to know what is happening, how things are changing, how people are reacting, and how you can help your country at the same time. Smith has managed to do this, through the use of powerful words and vivid pictures of military actions and memories. This results in a book that you can’t put down and will keep you reading until the last sentence has come to an end.
Smith starts the book with a vivid account of her firsthand experience of the Gulf war, which leaves you with vivid memories of that conflict. She relates these memories to the political turmoil going on at the time, and the reader gets a clear picture of what was happening in the world at that time. Smith then takes a look at how her husband is dealing with the death of his wife, and how their experience in the war is influencing their family’s future.
From the first paragraph of the book, it is easy to see that Smith wants to tell her readers something about politics and what is happening at that time. But more than that, she wants to make a statement about how the public and private views about war are different. She shows us how those views are changing today, how those views are still very divided, but how those views are beginning to divide less. After all, one man’s war is another man’s war.
This memoir isn’t just about the war, although that is a large part of it. It’s also about life after the war, how that war affected the world, and how the world is changing now. Smith writes in a casual manner, but she shows how clearly she wants to be there for her readers. She is very direct about telling her story, even though she includes personal details. If you enjoy a good story, this book will give you one that is entertaining and educational at the same time. For people who like a more complex story that covers many different topics, this book isn’t for you.