Kirkus Reviews -
The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior. The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene "Jo" Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She's served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael's increasing emotional distance. Jo's mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo's confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael's earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah's default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war's aftermath.
In the Still of the Night: The Strange Death of Ronda Reynolds and Her Mother's Unceasing Quest for the Truth by Ann Rule
FROM TRUE-CRIME LEGEND ANN RULE comes this riveting story of a young woman whose life ended too soon—and a determined mother’s eleven-year crusade to clear her daughter’s name.
It was nine days before Christmas 1998, and thirty-two-year-old Ronda Reynolds was getting ready to travel from Seattle to Spokane to visit her mother and brother and grandmother before the holidays. Ronda’s second marriage was dissolving after less than a year, her career as a pioneering female Washington State Trooper had ended, but she was optimistic about starting over again. "I’m actually looking forward to getting on with my life," she told her mother earlier the night before. "I just need a few days with you guys." Barb Thompson, Ronda’s mother, who had met her daughter’s second husband only once before, was just happy that Ronda was coming home.
At 6:20 that morning, Ron Reynolds called 911 and told the dispatcher his wife was dead. She had committed suicide, he said, although he hadn’t heard the gunshot and he didn’t know if she had a pulse. EMTs arrived, detectives arrived, the coroner’s deputy arrived, and a postmortem was conducted. Lewis County Coroner Terry Wilson, who neither visited the death scene nor attended the autopsy, declared the manner of Ronda’s death as "undetermined." Over the next eleven years, Coroner Wilson would change that manner of death from "undetermined" to "suicide," back to "undetermined"—and then back to "suicide" again.
But Barb Thompson never for one moment believed her daughter committed suicide. Neither did Detective Jerry Berry or ballistics expert Marty Hayes or attorney Royce Ferguson or dozens of Ronda’s friends. For eleven grueling years, through the ups and downs of the legal system and its endless delays, these people and others helped Barb Thompson fight to strike that painful word from her daughter’s death certificate.
On November 9, 2009, a precedent-setting hearing was held to determine whether Coroner Wilson’s office had been derelict in its duty in investigating the death of Ronda Reynolds. Veteran true-crime writer Ann Rule was present at that hearing, hoping to unbraid the tangled strands of conflicting statements and mishandled evidence and present all sides of this haunting case and to determine, perhaps, what happened to Ronda Reynolds, in the chill still of that tragic December night.
Kirkus Reviews -
American Enterprise Institute scholar Murray (Real Education, 2008, etc.) considers the chasm between the haves and the have-nots and how the welfare state has wrecked the "founding virtues." For the first half of the book, the author elaborates on some of the now-well-trod assertions about the "cognitive elite" first promulgated in his book The Bell Curve (1994): that the "new upper class" making up the "most successful 5 percent of adults ages 25 and older" enjoys the highest incomes and IQs, lives in pockets of "SuperZips," intermarries and ensures that their children constitute the applicant pool for the elite schools and essentially practice "lifestyle choices" that would be approved by the Founding Fathers. These include industriousness, honesty, marriage and religiosity. With the elite isolating themselves in SuperZips and making most of the decisions for the rest of the country (they vote, for example), they have, however, little idea about the lives in the lower strata. Murray creates a detailed comparison between two communities: Belmont, a suburb of Boston inhabited by the aforementioned elite, and Fishtown, outside Philadelphia, where undereducated citizens are mired in low-skill jobs and blighted by a breakdown of the founding virtues--e.g., children out of wedlock and lack of industriousness by able-bodied men. With a plethora of graphs, the author shows that the same problems occurring in places like Fishtown are bleeding into areas like Belmont and contributing to a general erosion of "social capital," which reflects all of American society, black and white. ("The trends I describe exist independently of ethnic heritage," he writes, despite the use of an incendiary use of "white America" in the subtitle.) Murray's mostly straightforward study goes a bit off the rails in the last chapter, in which he slams the advanced welfare state as robbing citizens of personal responsibility, thus "enfeebl[ing] the institutions through which people live satisfying lives." However, with European states buckling and the U.S. gripped by economic downturn, Murray's extrapolations may be heeded. Somewhat cautious, nonacademic work meant to persuade broadly and accessibly.