I’ve not read any books of any sort about 9-11 or anything to do with its aftermath since that cloudless, sky-blue September day in 2001. I never wanted to. I never felt the need to. So I’m not sure why this particular book called to me when I found out about it. But I’m glad it did. This is a moving, touching, emotional albeit terrifying story of what can happen on any given day to change our lives. This story’s backdrop just happens to be the military and our country’s war in Iraq.
At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like each chapter shifting from character to character to advance the story, but this method actually works in this instance. You get the full effect of what that character is feeling and doing at that point in time. Another issue I had to get used to was reading in present tense instead of past tense. It didn’t take long, though, and that actually worked for this story also, bringing you more into the moment with these characters and their lives as it’s happening.
Abby Stanton is suddenly living every military wife’s nightmare. Her husband John has been killed in action while stationed in Iraq during the war. She has to deal with an overbearing mother-in-law and career Army father-in-law who wants their son touted as a hero, full military honors, burial at Arlington, the whole nine yards. What they don’t know is that John, though he left a successful and lucrative professional football career to enlist, had been doubting his country’s duty in Iraq. American soldiers have done what they can, now it’s time for them to go home. Abby tries to tend to John’s wishes and also allow his mother some comfort in seeing her son honored.
It’s when her college buddy Flint, a reporter embedded with a unit during the war, digs for more information for Abby that she learns John was killed by friendly fire. And it may have been deliberate. She’s determined to find out exactly what happened to her husband, whether his death was an accident or murder. Of course, the Army isn’t raising a hand to help her, no matter which avenue she takes. She meets the rest of John’s unit when they come home months later to see what info she can get from them, and she meets Charles Jump, the psychologist assigned to help soldiers through bad times when engaged in battle. He’s a little too eager to become more to her than she wants when still dealing with such tragedy, but it is nice having a man around again, if her guilt will let her.
There’s so much more that goes on in this book, of course. John’s brother Noah, a nurse, was in the same unit when John was killed; he has his own issues with his brother’s death and the war itself. Their young, teenage sister Madison is at the age that everything seems to be going wrong. The soldier who was by John’s side when he was hit has a hard time dealing with the fact he couldn’t help the man their unit looked up to. Even their superior officers’ thoughts and feelings are given fair opportunity with a couple of chapters. The author gives us a look at practically every feeling and emotion that could be associated with such loss. The only thing I wanted but didn’t get was more of an ending of what happens to the sociopathic bastard who caused such heartache.
Even though our hero is killed early on in the book, we still get the love story woven throughout the heartache and it’s a lovely story. There are those little funny moments we all have in life, even in the midst of such suffering. The evil encompassed on these pages is something you hope you’ll never see. There have been, of course, questions about the coincidence, I guess you could say, between this story and Pat Tillman’s, who also left a successful football career to enlist and was killed in Iraq. Ms. Noonan’s book, however, had been started well before that young man’s death. And, obviously, Tillman’s story doesn’t have the deliberate act of murder by a fellow soldier.
If you’ve been thinking about reading this book, and even if you haven’t, please do. It’s well worth the time.
The moment Abby sees two soldiers approach her front door, she knows her husband is dead. John Stanton, who gave up his career as an NFL running back to serve in the army after 9/11, has been killed in Iraq.
Suddenly Abby’s kitchen is overflowing with casseroles brought by the army wives’ club to which she has never really belonged. And her in-laws arrange a lavish funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, in spite of Abby’s misgivings. John had grown to hate the war even though he loved his country, and Abby can’t reconcile the complex man she knew with the version being portrayed by self-serving politicians, military leaders and the media.
Shell-shocked, Abby strives to cope with her own heartache while comforting John’s loved ones, including his mother Sharice, his staunchly anti-war sister Madison, his bitter younger brother Noah, and his father, a Vietnam veteran and career soldier now retired from the U.S. Army.
While others focus on preserving John’s fame, Abby becomes more and more convinced that John wasn’t killed by the enemy, but by someone he knew and trusted. ONE SEPTEMBER MORNING is a gripping and thoughtful story of loyalty and betrayal, a tale of one shattered family’s journey toward healing, and an examination of the courage it takes to confront the truth not just about our enemies but also about those we love.
Read an excerpt.