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The Soldier’s Wife - Reading Group Guide

Introduction

Alexa Riley eagerly awaits the return of her husband Dan, a major in the British Army, after a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. But the long-awaited reunion isn’t as perfect as she imagined, as her husband struggles to put the horrors of war behind him and readjust to family life. But for Alexa—who has been putting her own career dreams on hold while raising their three girls—the distance between them, both while Dan is away and at home, is unbearable. This poignant look at the inner workings of a modern military family questions just how much one is willing to compromise for family and what happens when love and vocation collide.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Although Dan has returned home to England, in what ways is he still in Afghanistan? What are some of the biggest adjustments he has to face at home?

2. How do Dan and Alexa both contribute to the breakdown of communication in their marriage? What is the most vital information each one withholds from the other? What motivates Dan? Alexa?

3. Many outside forces affect Dan and Alexa’s marriage. Discuss how the events involving Isabel, Gus and Kate, and the wounded soldiers impacted their reunion.

4. Discuss the support system of women who emerge in the novel. Consider Franny, Mo, and Mel’s character in your response. In what ways does Mel represent a different path for military wives? Do you have a group of friends you turn to for support?

5. Discuss the generational differences among the Riley military men: Eric, George, and Dan. What issues pose a challenge for Dan that his father and grandfather did not experience in their day? In what ways do the two elder Rileys have the benefit of hindsight?

6. Compare the descriptions of day-to-day life on the military base with life in London. In what ways is the city an escape for Alexa?

7. Dan and Alexa’s friends and family subtly involve themselves in the couple’s relationship. Do you think actions taken by well-meaning outsiders helped or hurt Dan and Alexa’s relationship?

8. What role does Jack Dearlove fill in Alexa’s life that Dan cannot? Does Jack overstep his bounds in any way? Does Dan have the right to feel jealous or threatened?

9. How does Isabel’s unhappiness at boarding school illustrate the turmoil within the Riley family? What message do you think is Isabel trying to send to her parents?

10. Discuss the roles of hierarchy, structure, and authority in The Soldier’s Wife. How does the leadership styles of Mrs. Cairns, Mack, and George differ? In your opinion, does a family need structure or an authority figure?

11. How did you react to Dan and Gus’s decisions about their military service? Do you think each man made the best decision for his family? For himself?

12. Do know anyone from your personal life who has served in the military? Did reading The Soldier’s Wife affect your perception of what it is like to serve—both for service members and their families? Do you think this depiction of a military family is accurate? Why or why not?

13. What do you think the future holds for Dan and Alexa, both in their relationship and in their careers? How do you imagine their story playing out?

 


 

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