Summer Reading Club #4

Review #4: The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird

Published 2001 ~ ISBN #0-345-45277-1 ~ 368 pages ~ Challenge book #3

With my previous posts in mind, I would be remiss if I did not point out that the title of this book SHOULD have an apostrophe after “Officers”.

I should also note that my perspective on this story is likely to be a little different from anyone else’s. I am an air force brat, like the protagonist. My father was stationed for two years at Osan Air Force Base in South Korea, and I have been to Yokota and Kadena (where the story takes place). I can decifer all the military acronyms. I ate at the Officers’ Club. I flirted with airmen. I moved, I moved, and I moved. There is a lot for me to relate to in this book, which is why my mom plucked it off the shelf for me, I’m sure.

Of course, during my tenure as a brat, OSI and RIF were never the threats they are in The Yokota Officers Club. The base staff dealt with all the lawn care, so no one was ever going to get fired because their kid didn’t mow the lawn. As far as I remember, no one disappeared overnight due to behavior infractions or their father’s death. No one fretted over classified material or recon missions or…anything, really. The lives of the kids were very separate from the jobs of their parents. Who really knew where Dad went on TDY?

At the height of the Cold War, though, things might have been a little different.

The narrator, Bernie, is the eldest of six military brats. As the story opens, she is flying to Yokota to be with her family at the end of her freshman year in college. The Vietnam War is raging. Bernie has become a hippy, which becomes a source of friction between her and her family–though not the main friction of the story. This is a story about loyalty and politics and standing up for what you believe in. It is also about secrets, small and large, and revenge. And the innocence of a child.

This is a story that could have really happened. In fact, while it is fiction, many of the elements come from the author’s own life as an air force brat. The writing is vivid and familiar and heartbreaking, all at once. This book picks up the splinters of the shattered vase, pieces them together and discovers who knocked it down. But it doesn’t–it can’t–make the vase whole.

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