A Journal for Jordan: A Story of Love and Honor
I can’t remember the last time I cried after reading a book. After reading the last page of A Journal for Jordan I suddenly found myself bawling my eyes out. But enough about me—this is a book review after all.
Based on the title of this book, I expected it to be a journal written by a loved one for a loved one. I was aware that the fiancée of a fallen soldier, who also happens to be a New York Times senior editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, had encouraged her fiancée to start a journal for his infant son after learning about his impending deployment to Iraq. I expected a touching book filled with words of wisdom about life lessons learned. This book is that and much more. In it, Canedy tells the story of an unlikely romance between herself, an independent NYT reporter, and First Sergeant Charles Monroe King, a decorated military officer and gentle soul. The book also includes life lessons and inspiration in the form of King’s journal entries and letters.
Canedy came to the writing of this book from her own improbable journey. An army brat who had seen the toll that military life took on her parents’ marriage, she was determined not to marry a military man as her mother had, and worked her way up the ranks from cub reporter to New York Times editor. While nursing a broken heart and a wounded ego after a demoralizing breakup, Canedy finds herself at her parents house on Father’s Day trying to patch up her tenuous relationship with her father, and meets the man who will be the love of her life.
This is a love story of two individuals who couldn’t be more dissimilar and Canedy charts the up and down course of their relationship with humor and honesty. I especially found her anecdotes about King’s old-fashioned courtliness endearing such as his first visit to New York City:
"It occurred to me that perhaps he was the sort of man who still believed in the dating rituals of a bygone era. I was right. The entire weekend, Charles insisted on being on the curbside of the sidewalk to put distance between me and the traffic. It was a sweet throwback gesture that in any other city I would have appreciated, but it drove me crazy as we tried to keep pace with the pedestrian traffic on New York’s one-way streets…"
By the end of the book, Canedy is a single mother raising a small child and struggling with the reality of a life and a future without King. We travel with her as she navigates her new life as an army widow and mother. She tells in wrenching detail about meeting other military families of fallen soldiers at a memorial service, and her commitment to giving her son a sense of the father that he never knew. It seems fitting to end this review with a passage from a letter that King wrote to Canedy on the plane back to Iraq:
"It takes a special kind of woman to be married to a soldier. He’s always going on deployment or training, missing births, birthdays, and any kind of special occasion you can imagine. You really have to be a self-motivated and strong-willed person. You spend a lot of time alone because he’s gone. It’s a tough job being a military spouse. Though we’ve had our difference, you have always been there for me. Thank you."