Dependent: Brenda Corey Dunne
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Release Date: July 29, 2014
I was asked to write a review of Dependent, a novel by Brenda Corey Dunne. Typically, as I read I evaluate whatever’s in front of me on a subconscious level – a product of writing too many book reviews in university. I try to distance myself from both fact and emotion and remain aloof and objective. One of the best novels I have read in years, Dependent took me in an entirely different direction. The story conquered me and drew me in. As a military spouse it left me raw and reeling, questioning my own motivations and life choices. For days after reading the final lines I struggled to find my mental equilibrium while asking myself, “What if…?” over and over again.
Ellen is a military spouse. Her husband is killed on a training exercise. As she grieves his loss she takes a close look at the darkest corners of her life. What she discovers is how dependent her very existence is on his existence – and now he is gone. Her career, her home, her friends, the entire fabric of her life is woven in a pattern designed by the military. With the loss of her husband she is forced to draw strength from past experiences that almost destroyed her. Dunne’s depiction of Ellen’s struggle to extricate herself from her dead husband’s life is heart wrenching. Military spouses will see themselves in Ellen and question if extrication is even possible. Self-examination will leave them wondering if they too have lost themselves completely, their very existence nothing more than a means to support their soldier.
For military members reading Dependent, Dunne offers the unglazed reality of what being a military spouse feels like. Members will be forced to stand on the carpet and squarely face the impact their career choice has on the people they love. Dependent is a mirror of truth even the bravest soldier may not be able to face. Members, who are honest with themselves, will recognize their selfless willingness to die for a cause is also a selfish career choice, their personal success dependent on the constant sacrifices made by their families.
Dependent hands civilians a pass to the usually restricted areas of military life. Ellen’s grief and internal conflicts breach barriers between military and civilian life experiences. Anyone can empathize with her as she struggles to find herself. Unapologetic and non-defensive, Dunne determinedly exposes readers to the reality of being military, as she reveals each layer of Ellen’s journey of self-recovery. The more intuitive reader will examine their opinions and misconceptions of military life and rise to the challenge of supporting military families.
Dunne is relentless as Dependent opens wounds and exposes the shrapnel beneath. Ellen’s story is difficult to read yet impossible to put down. Her choices not really choices at all, but compromises made in the name of love. “What if…? What if…? What if…?”