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'Band of Sisters' explores burdens of women with deployed spouses

Published: Thursday, July 8 2010 12:59 p.m. MDT

AMERICAN FORK — "Band of Sisters" is a compilation of accounts of five imaginary Mormon women who have husbands deployed to Afghanistan.

It tells of their woes and their joys, their trials and their triumphs during the first half of the deployment, based on stories told by actual women Annette Lyon interviewed for a magazine article.

"I got so much, I realized, 'There's a book here,'" Lyon said. "Now people are asking me, 'Is there a sequel?'"

And while "Band of Sisters" is a touch simplistic in the telling, it still makes for an interesting, informative read.

Kim is young, newly wed and afraid to be pregnant and facing parenthood with her husband so far away.

Jessie isn't sure she minds that her controlling husband is away, though it leaves her alone with three busy, young children. She feels guilty about not wanting him back too soon.

Brenda is depressed and insecure. She resents the "perfect" people around her that she figures she can never match.

Marianne has teenagers and all the cliche stresses that go with it.

Nora is living through her third deployment and living a life based on projecting correct images. She's ready to be done with hiding behind masks, ready to rid herself of old habits. As she mothers the other women, she learns to let go and get real.

Each woman is tied to a foreign war that threatens life as they know it. Each depends on e-mail and faith to get them through.

Each feels misunderstood by the rest of the world.

"A lot of people don't have a clue what people, families of deployed soldiers, go through," Lyon said. "To quote the women in the book, 'They just don't get it.'"

Each woman has her own set of burdens and it's easy to get caught up in their lives — as they meet weekly in familiar restaurants in Utah County — although the telling is somewhat predictable and low-key about subjects that can be unbelievably painful.

This story is educational, providing a window into the everyday lives of those left behind in war.

It's also very LDS, with plot lines and trials that are resolved with blessings, friendship and prayers, sometimes a shade too easily.

That said — it's fitting that the book serves as an awareness trumpet for a program known as "Free Flat Daddy."

"Free Flat Daddy" provides a paper photo image of their military loved one to families with someone deployed.

The flat images can stand in for the daddies and husbands while they're away, providing something of substance that can be hugged, kissed, taken to school or tucked into a wagon for a parade.

The likeness helps very young children recognize their fathers when they return and helps the family focus during a deployment, Lyon said.

She learned about the program after she had written her book and has since set up a page on her website, annettelyon.com/flatdaddies, whereby people can donate money toward providing a Flat Daddy for a military family.

"Families just absolutely love them," Lyon said.

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