Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review: 'Life on Base' by Thomas P. Wise

Tom and Nancy Wise (perhaps Tom writes and Nancy edits….) have placed before us a book that is more valuable than even they may think. The story takes place on the USMC base in Quantico Virginia and offers so many insights as to military life at home and the effect if has one the families of the soldiers as related though the eyes of youngsters – a particularly fine way to introduce military life to Young Adults considering military careers.

The introduction to the book sets the tone: ‘Life on Base is like living in a biodome for military families. Each base is a self-contained and stable environment, where no one asks, “What does your Dad or your Mom do?” Everyone is military. The question is, “What rank is your Mom or Dad?” Life is not divided by ethnic background or race, but rather one’s parent’s station in the hierarchy of the military.’

And as the story unfolds we learn not only about Quantico - ‘The base— anchored on its east side by the Potomac River in northern Virginia and smack-dab on top of old Civil War encampments— wraps around the small town of Triangle. Gouged by long-abandoned trench works and littered with discarded cannon balls, musket ammunition, artillery rounds, and gravesites, the town is known as one of the most haunted places in the U.S. It has been the site of military engagements reaching back to the American Revolution.’ How many of us knew that? The story is as much a coming of age novel as it is an insight into military family life.

As Tom and Nancy summarize the plot, ‘For Stephen, his life on base is much the same as most other children’s. The difference is in the details. Look both ways before crossing a tank path and be sure to check if the spent bullet casings you find in the long-abandoned trenches are actually empty. Sports stop at the sound of the evening trumpet call as he and his friends stand at attention while the flag is retired. Quantico Cave is a story of friendship and competition, and when Stephen meets up with a friend he once knew at a previous home station, the contest hits a whole new level that places everyone at risk. ‘

A new perspective about the military and a rousting fine novel to boot make this a pleasure to read. Grady Harp, December 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.