Artis Henderson was a free-spirited young woman with dreams of traveling the world and one day becoming a writer. Read more...
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Artis Henderson was a free-spirited young woman with dreams of traveling the world and one day becoming a writer. Marrying a conservative Texan soldier and becoming an Army wife was never part of her plan, but when she met Miles, Artis threw caution to the wind and moved with him to a series of Army bases in dusty southern towns, far from the exotic future of her dreams. If this was true love, she was ready to embrace it.
But when Miles was training and Artis was left alone, her feelings of isolation and anxiety competed with the warmth and unconditional acceptance she'd found with Miles. She made few friends among the other Army wives. In some ways these were the only women who could truly empathize with her lonely, often fearful existence-- yet they kept their distance, perhaps sensing the great potential for heartbreak among their number.
It did not take long for a wife's worst fears to come true. On November 6, 2006, the Apache helicopter carrying Miles crashed in Iraq, leaving twenty-six-year-old Artis--in official military terms--an "unremarried widow." A role, she later realized, that her mother had been preparing her for for most of her life.
In this memoir Artis recounts not only the unlikely love story she shared with Miles and her unfathomable recovery in the wake of his death-- from the dark hours following the military notification to the first fumbling attempts at new love--but also reveals how Miles's death mirrored her father's death in a plane crash, which Artis survived when she was five years old and which left her own mother a young widow.
In impeccable prose, Artis chronicles the years bookended by the loss of these men--each of whom she knew for only a short time but who had a profound impact on her life and on the woman she has become.
Joining a battalion of Army wives
Unremarried Widow describes the heart-rending love affair between the author and her military husband, Miles, who died in a horrific helicopter crash while serving overseas. It’s obviously a sad story, and Artis Henderson wisely chooses not to tell it in chronological order. Her narrative begins in the early days of their marriage, then lurches forward to the accident, then back to their meeting, and then even further back to an airplane crash that killed her father. This time travel illuminates the ways in which certain events are forever with us, shaping how we deal with what comes next—and how what comes next will, in turn, shape our perception of what happened before.
Henderson is a bright and ambitious young coed when she meets Miles in a bar. She longs to live abroad and become a writer, but instead she falls for Miles and follows him wherever the U.S. government sends him. She finds herself living on or near military bases, seeking temporary jobs that barely satisfy her. Time is simply something to fill until her lover returns. As a former Army wife myself, I was thoroughly convinced by Henderson’s description of military partnership. The military community can feel at once comforting and suffocating, especially for women, who are always on the sidelines.
When Miles finally does deploy, Henderson makes a break from on-post military life and moves back to Florida with her mom. While she finds a certain kind of rhythm there, in crucial ways she is unsupported when her worst fears become reality.
Henderson is an author unafraid to tackle big issues like love and identity, yet the book rarely feels heavy-handed because we arrive at these topics through her very personal story. Unremarried Widow is an unflinching, honest and raw book that will likely evoke a strong emotional reaction from the reader. It certainly did from me. If you like true love stories (even tragic ones) and good writing, give this book a try. Just be ready to break out the tissues.