“The war had changed her in the same way a dose of radiation alters a person’s atomic structure and causes a mutation. That’s what she was, a mutated version of her old self. The old Frankie was gone, another person she could not save.”
Marine Captain Frankie Byrne Tennyson has come back from a tour in Iraq that embodied her personal determination and idealism, even though her family had advised her against going. As she pieces together her routine back at home, she finds that her marriage to Rick is in jeopardy, her eight-year-old daughter Glory is confused, alienated and traumatized, and her father, the General, still refuses to give her the praise she longs for.
"Campbell has taken a 'coming home' story that could have been trite or formulaic and made it poignant and deeply human. WHEN SHE CAME HOME will be of special relevance to military women and their loved ones, but, just as importantly, to all of us who seek insight into the serious issues that such families face."
In therapy, Frankie gradually begins to deal with the memories of her tour. One incident in particular surfaces, dominating her mind and imperiling her sanity at times. Something she witnessed in Iraq, if revealed, could utterly destroy even the fragile civilian life she is struggling to maintain. Keeping the secret is driving her crazy, but disclosing it to a Congressional committee, as she is being pressured to do, looks like an even worse option.
WHEN SHE CAME HOME, carefully researched and skillfully crafted by Drusilla Campbell (THE GOOD SISTER, LITTLE GIRL GONE), builds incrementally, sensitively portraying the suffering of a soldier battling PTSD and grappling with a crucial moral dilemma that threatens to put everything she cherishes on the line. Because the soldier is a woman, we see the issues of motherhood and marriage writ large.
Fearful of confiding in Rick as he slips away from her, trying desperately to be a good mother and worthy role model for Glory, and longing to live up to the high standards set by her military hero father, Frankie’s dilemma rings all the changes. She still has a job to do, magnanimously trying to help a homeless woman whose daughter is Glory’s best friend. She continues to strive for personal excellence while bravely battling mental demons and coping with haunting memories. Her courage gives us hope that Frankie will do the right thing, even if it means defying the General, pushing Rick to divorce, and changing the way that Glory perceives her mother forever.
Campbell has taken a “coming home” story that could have been trite or formulaic and made it poignant and deeply human. WHEN SHE CAME HOME will be of special relevance to military women and their loved ones, but, just as importantly, to all of us who seek insight into the serious issues that such families face.
Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on April 11, 2013
When She Came Home