• Soldier Girls

  • The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War
  • By: Helen Thorpe
  • Narrated by: Donna Postel
  • Length: 15 hrs and 54 mins
  • 4.1 out of 5 stars (286 ratings)

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Soldier Girls  By  cover art

Soldier Girls

By: Helen Thorpe
Narrated by: Donna Postel
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Publisher's Summary

Soldier Girls follows the lives of three women on their paths to the military. These women, who are quite different in every way, become friends, and we watch their interaction and also what happens when they are separated. We see their families, their lovers, their spouses, their children. We see them work extremely hard, deal with the attentions of men on base and in war zones, and struggle to stay connected to their families back home. We see some of them drink too much, have illicit affairs, and react to the deaths of fellow soldiers. And we see what happens to one of them when the truck she is driving hits an explosive in the road, blowing it up. She survives, but her life may never be the same again.

©2014 Helen Thrope (P)2014 Dreamscape Media, LLC

Critic Reviews

".... a solid chunk of American history...." - ( The New York Times Book Review)
Starred review. ".... this visceral narrative illuminates the role of women in the military...." ( Publishers Weekly)
"With a novelist's perception of character, drama, and telling detail, Helen Thorpe magically weaves together the stories of three very different but equally compelling women soldiers. Taken together, their stories provide an intimate window on life in the military, the impact of war, and the difficult transition to home. This is an absolutely terrific and important work." (Doris Kearns Goodwin)

What listeners say about Soldier Girls

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Valor Knows No Gender

The Pentagon officially lifted its ban on women in combat in 2013. That means that Desma Brooks, one of the soldiers in Helen Thorpe's "Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War" (2014), wasn't supposed to be at risk in her 2010 deployment to Iraq. She had a commanding officer that used his distaste for women as a reason not to give Ms. Brooks specialized training she needed to drive trucks in a combat zone. What that misogynist didn't even consider was that trucks convoy; other soldiers are on board, one navigating and another literally 'riding shotgun'; and that truck might be carrying weapons the battalion needs for its next fight. Ms. Brooks and her crew were badly injured when and IED (Improvised Explosive Device) went off next to the ASV (Armored Service Vehicle) she was driving. If that particular officer hasn't resigned his commission in the National Guard, he needs to be courtmartialed before he does any more damage.

"Soldier Girl" follows three women in Indiana's National Guard: Ms. Brooks, a mother of 3 who enlisted in 1996; Debbie Helton Deckard, a mother of 1 who enlisted in the mid-1990's at the age of 35; and Michelle Fischer, the pseudonym of an unfocused college student who joined to pay for college - just before 9/11. Thorpe kept her promise to her subjects and only mentioned that one soldier asked not to have her real name used, but Ms. Fischer is the only one that can't be found in a quick search of Google images. All three women ended up in the Guard as part of what Ms. Fischer referred to, after finishing a degree at a prestigious university that her military service paid for, as an "economic draft".

Ms. Brooks, Ms. Fischer, and to some extent, Ms. Deckard, served because they needed the money. It's a much more insidious draft than the one that ended in 1973: it only takes the poor. I ended up in that particular draft myself. I enlisted in 1982, the year I graduated from high school, in the middle of a recession that made the prospect of paying for college bleak. Thorpe's description of entering the service; basic training; and advanced individual training (AIT) is spot on. I never served in the National Guard - I was on active duty in the Army - but Thorpe's descriptions of weekend drills, annual training and the Armory itself match what I saw when Guard members trained with us.

"Soldier Girl" is accurate about another facet of serving as a woman: the constant sexual harassment that sometimes spills over into actual violence. Thorpe mentions a term that the Department of Veterans Affairs has just started to use: Military Sexual Trauma (MST). It's a catch-all term for what Ms. Brooks and Ms. Fisher faced during their first deployment in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The leers and catcalls. The suggestive jokes. Nominally 'giving' sex for plum assignments and favorable living quarters - although with fraternization, what's actually happening is a subordinate is being rewarded for services rendered and keeping her mouth shut.

Ms. Deckard, who became a grandmother during her deployment to Afghanistan, did not have the same level of unremitting harassment as the other two soldiers and attributes that to her age - but she wouldn't walk unescorted in various areas of the FOBs (Forward Operating Base) she was assigned to. The MST other women faced bothered Ms. Deckard more than it did the women themselves. When you've been around long enough and the military isn't your first real job, you recognize the problem more readily; you know what's happening is wrong; and you wonder why it's still happening. I was dismayed that MST seems to have gotten worse since I served. I wasn't assigned to a tactical unit like these women were, though. Perhaps it was always that bad and I just didn't know.

I listened to David J. Morris' "The Evil Hours: A Biography of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" (2015) a few weeks before "Soldier Girl." Together, they make a good introduction to real soldiering and the real problems veterans have. Donna Postel was a good choice for narrator.

The title of the review is from a speech given by President Barrack Obama in 2013, announcing that combat jobs would be opened to women.

[If this review helped, please press YES. Thank you!]

20 people found this helpful

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Robot voice horrible

Absolutely fantastic story but I would not I would hesitate to recommend this to friends because of the horrible voice

19 people found this helpful

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Healing and Insightful

What made the experience of listening to Soldier Girls the most enjoyable?

I have a more clear understanding of my partner's military and war experiences. I learned so much about the total picture of what war does to people and their family members.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Soldier Girls?

When one of the characters (don't want to spoil it for another listener)continued to grow and did not give up on her goal of pursing higher education.

Which character – as performed by Donna Postel – was your favorite?

Desma- I want to thank her for sharing her story.

What’s the most interesting tidbit you’ve picked up from this book?

That the National Guard is under appreciated big time in our country. As Americans we owe them a huge debt.Grateful that therapists can make such a huge difference in the lives of veterans.

Any additional comments?

Should be required reading for anyone who loves a veteran. This book was life changing for me in my understanding of my partner's war experiences.Proud to be a Hoosier.

12 people found this helpful

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A female Face to the Military

What did you love best about Soldier Girls?

I loved this book, how well-rounded it was, detailing the optinions and thoughts and experiences of three female soldiers from vastly different backgrounds - those who fell apart, those who kept it together. While it is a unique look at female soldiers, this quite conceivably could have, for the most part, detailed the morale of any group of soldiers fighting in these wars.

Any additional comments?

The narrator and the author seemed to team up and deliver a compulsively readable package! I loved Thorpe's "Just Like Us" and was thrilled that she wrote another book.
Well worth your time and credit.

10 people found this helpful

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Conference of Women

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

I would recommend it. It has a good story with soul and the narrator did a decent job.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Soldier Girls?

When the 2nd tour came up and they had to go again, separated.

If you could give Soldier Girls a new subtitle, what would it be?

Conference of Women

Any additional comments?

I didn't love the ending. I wish it would have been deeper, more girth, more something. It just ended with so many lose ends. Characters were forgotten about and since it is based on real life...it leaves you hanging.

9 people found this helpful

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A GOOD & SOLID TRUE STORY

It took me awhile to get into the book but it was worth the journey. I didn't care for some of the language. Donna Postel was a great reader and the book is good. The insight into the war in Afganistan was very interesting. And it sounded crazy that they are sending 50 year olds to war. When I was in the marines 30 years ago, The top age was 28.

4 people found this helpful

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Amazing stories of three veterans

I could not stop listening, was drawn into these women's lives and stories. Several veterans in my family, and I'm very interested in speaking to them about their experiences. Wonderful narrator, she did an excellent job portraying the individual women and their stories. Absolutely recommend.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

As the granddaughter of a WWI Army veteran, daughter of a WWII Navy pilot and sister of two Air Force Academy graduates, my exposure to military life was always second-hand and masculine. Military service runs in my family including uncles and cousins. All male. This well-written book offered a different and valuable perspective.

Well worth listening or reading...

2 people found this helpful

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An opening of ones eyes

Learned so much about just how hard it was for women in the military. Never realized just how many people where effected, that part time soldier's where sent - let alone more then once. The story is not a thriller, keep you at the edge of your seat, but was still very enjoyable and you wanted to know what happened to these amazing women. No problems getting through it, it kept you engaged.

2 people found this helpful

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Essential account from women who were deployed.

Soldier Girls puts both wars and our military involvement in human terms. It is triumph and tragedy. I hope the twenty something's will read this book to gain insight into the distance between those making life and death decisions and those who carry them out. Also the reader had the right tone for the story.

2 people found this helpful