The year is 2003, and the end of summer should be memorable for twenty-four year old Annie Harper simply as a time for prepping her third-grade classroom and enjoying the last few days of vacation. Instead, she finds herself waving goodbye as her boyfriend is deployed to Iraq, and she’s unsure of where this leaves her. Is she expected to join a women-left-behind support group? Should she be crying on her parents’ shoulders? In Jane Berentson debut novel Long Division, Annie Harper charts her own course for survival on the home front.
Well, the group formed by other girlfriends and wives just doesn’t feel right for Annie, and there’s very little crying on anyone’s shoulder (even though her mother clearly feels like this would be a helpful experience), but Annie does discover one method to not only bide the time but also to record the experience for posterity. With images of a bestselling book dancing in her head, she starts writing, beginning a memoir that eventually becomes filled with humor and irreverence, a dash of politics, and a whole mess of self-discovery.
And what a mess it can sometimes be. With 392 days of deployment scheduled for her boyfriend David, Annie spends more time with her best friend Gus, volunteers to spend one-on-one time with a resident at a retirement home, and even opts to adopt a chicken. (Yes, she gets a chicken. She’s really all over the place!) In the end, it’s easy to see how this young character still has a lot of growing up to do, and yes, she’s a bit self-absorbed, but really, who isn’t when he or she is young, responsible for only oneself, and in possession of a lot of down time?
Her focus on herself is intentional, since the format of the novel revolves around her recordings of day to day life and feelings while her boyfriend is deployed, and thankfully it comes off more endearing than annoying. I found Annie to be funny and self-deprecating, irreverent and profane at times, making me think we would have had fun hanging out when I was twenty-four! At her heart, Annie is a loving and thoughtful young woman, and at this stage of her life, she’s still discovering what happiness, loyalty, and love can be like.
For me, this novel was a fun and semi-lighthearted look at the time spent back home by one girlfriend of a soldier, whose perspective is often amusing, especially in her many long-winded footnotes that add to the sincere appeal of her character. Annie Harper’s year features both stress and joy, loss and discovery, making for an entertaining and charming tale.
We’re happy to be able to offer two copies of Long Division in this week’s giveaway! Leave a comment to be entered, U.S. residents only, please.