Monday, April 6, 2009

#62 - "A Journal for Jordan" by Dana Canedy

At first I wasn't sure I wanted to read A Journal for Jordan (2008) by Dana Canedy. It was clear from the cover that the story was about a soldier who had been killed in Iraq, but had left a journal for his young son. I knew that no matter how it was written or whether I could sympathize with the characters or not, that it would be a heartbreaking tale; and to be honest I really just picked it up because I haven't read a book that started with 'J' yet. But as much as I disagree with the war and hate the loss of life involved, the sacrifices, death, and tragedy that surrounds those involved have always been more impersonal and academic to me than real. I actually try to avoid hearing about it because it's so depressing, but I figured the least I could do is learn the faces and story of one American soldier who gave up his life for his country.

Dana Canedy is pulitzer-prize-winning editor for the New York Times. She met an army man, Charles Monroe King, back in her hometown when she was visiting her family and fell in love with him, proving the old axiom that opposites do attract. Dana is assertive and loud while Charles is artistic, quiet and shy, and honorably devoted to God and the men and women in his command. The couple had their differences and issues, and their careers kept them constantly dealing with the challenges of a long-distance relationship, but in the end they stayed together. And then 9-11 happened, and the U.S. invaded Iraq, and First Sergeant Charles King was deployed. Perhaps sensing the danger and lack of time, Dana and Charles decide to try to have a baby, and the child is miraculously conceived in one short weekend. Charles manages to see Dana only once when she is about five months pregnant, and Dana gives him a present of a small, blue journal for him to write thoughts to their son. Their child, Jordan, is born while Charles is in Iraq. Charles manages to come home on leave when Jordan is about six months old and meet his son for two weeks, but not long after he returns and only about six weeks before he is due home for good, Charles is killed by an IED on a road in Iraq.

This book had more to it than I was first expecting. Canedy works through her own grief by writing about the story of Charles and his relationship with her for their son to read when he is older. And she seems to have been pretty honest--not turning Charles into some unreal angel who her son could never live up to, but at the same time really showing how honorable and dedicated he was. Although the book certainly made me cry and I felt pretty drained by the end, it wasn't all tears and sadness. Canedy first talks about how she and Charles met. I loved the awkwardness of their initial courtship, and Charles was so cute and sweet and muscley that I immediately got a little crush on him. I was also interested in the story of their families and backgrounds, which made the story even more tragic when he died, as I could see the suffering of his parents and his daughter, as well as his fiance.

In the end, I found I could relate a lot more to Charles, a man almost wholly dedicated to God and serving his country, than I would have ever thought possible. And knowing more about him and his family and what he lost and what he left behind really is just depressing. I found myself playing the game if only: if only he took his leave at a different time, if only they had closed that dangerous road down, if only he hadn't chosen to go on that mission. But in the end that doesn't do any good, and all I ended up thinking was, what a waste. Why did he and his family need to make that kind of sacrifice? Bush and his ilk were the ones all fired up to go to war. Would Bush have still dragged us into this war if, say, he had to sacrifice one of his daughters for it? I feel like that should be the standard for armed conflict.

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