Unremarried Widow by Artis Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
***I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.***
Un-remarried Widow is hands down the best memoir I have ever read, and simultaneously the saddest book I have ever read. Summer of 2004 Artis Henderson finds herself working an unfulfilling job, lonely and spending her spare time reading travel books in the library. During a night out with her roommates, she meets Chief Warrant Officer 2 Miles Henderson. Despite describing herself as being the type of girl guys didn't pick up, Miles easily won her over, she liked that he had a job, his easy smile and the way he leaned into listen to her. He was at Fort Rucker for flight school and spent his weekends pursuing Artis, and when he graduated in December and relocated to Fort Bragg Artis moved with him.
Life as a military girlfriend/wife was a hard adjustment, moving to Fort Bragg to Fort Hood and back to Bragg, working jobs Artis was over qualified for and always preparing for Deployment. On July 1st, 2006, three weeks before his first deployment Miles and Artis married on a Florida Beach and than quickly began the preparations for his fifteen month deployment to Iraq. The night before he left as he frantically rushed around their house packing Artis struggled to stay awake, as she drifted off, Miles said, "You're going to feel bad if something happens to me over there and you spent our last night together sleeping."
November 2006, Artis returns home to find the soldiers waiting with her mother in their living room, Miles helicopter had gone down, he would not be coming home. Artis is officially classified as an un-remarried widow and begins a journey of grief, acceptance and healing.
Artis and I are approximately the same age and in her stark, poetic writing she was able to describe so many of the emotions of navigating through your early twenties in a way I could truly understand. Our stories are vastly different, however, I could identify with so many of her experiences. The loneliness and struggles that followed graduation, relationship struggles, career woes etc. In 2006, I was with an ex-boyfriend as he packed all his gear into tough bins the night before he deployed, and I was with him in the armory as the buses pulled in and he left. And I understand the struggle of maintaining a relationship during war. Being a soldier myself, I then waited for my turn to deploy. Years later I experienced giving up my career and home to follow my fiancé half way across the county for employment, struggling to find a new job, filling my long hours alone and making new friends.
I sobbed through more than half of this memoir, pages of my copy are wrinkled and tear stained. My sadness was only a small fraction of Artis's and as I read and sobbed I admired her courage in sharing this story, her raw emotions and her darkest hours. I read some reviews that described the author as cold and detached, I don't understand how a reader could view her this way, especially when her emotions spilled out on every page.
As I was reading this book, I did a google search for Artis Henderson, and amongst the images on my computer screen was one of her and Miles sitting on a concrete floor the day he deployed, she had her had on on Miles knee and the look being shared between them was on of pure love. That image was seared inside my head as I finished her memoir and made reading her story more painful but more real, to see them frozen in time, to see real people touched me very strongly, this is a story I won't forget.
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