Book Review: dependent

side of woman's head with hair in bun not showing face - book cover of dependent


When 45-year-old Ellen Michaels loses her husband to a tragic military accident, she is left in a world of gray. For 25 years her life has been dictated by the ubiquitous They—the military establishment that has included her like chattel with John’s worldly goods—his Dependents, Furniture, and Effects. They—who have stolen her hopes, her dreams and her innocence, and now in mere months will take away the roof over her head. Ellen is left with nothing to hold on to but memories and guilt and an awful secret that has held her in its grip since she was 19. John’s untimely death takes away her anchor, and now, without the military, there is no one to tell her where to go, what to do – no one to dictate who she is. Dependent deals with issues ever-present in today’s service families – early marriage, frequent long absences, the culture of rank, and posttraumatic stress, as well as harassment and abuse of power by higher-ranking officials. It presents a raw and realistic view of life for the invisible support behind the uniform.

My Review

In her book “Dependent,” Brenda Corey Dunne paints a realistic portrait of the day-to-day life of a military spouse – a dependent. Brenda does an excellent job of describing the emotional conflict within the main character Ellen – from the sadness of abandoning her career to the joy and pride of raising her children. Over the course of the story, we see Ellen come to terms with her choices and draw strength from her experiences.

There are scenes in the story that I’m sure every military spouse has experienced:

  • Overhearing vicious gossip in the ladies’ room
  • Participating in banal conversation at an official function
  • Struggling to make the military housing office understand that the broken furnace needs to be repaired in the middle of winter
  • Trying to make ends meet with only one income

The story flashes between past and present. Chapters are titled based on the house Ellen lived in at the time (House No. 13, House No. 2 etc.), but the reader never really finds out in which cities Ellen has lived. As a military spouse myself, I understand why. It really doesn’t matter which city you’re in. Each geographical location has its own challenges, and you’re never there long enough to get used to it anyway, so does it really matter what city you’re in?

This is a well-written book to which every military spouse can relate. It is also a book that military spouses can give to their non-military family and friends and say, “Here is a window into what my life is like, and these are some of the things I struggle with.”

I read the book in three hours. I couldn’t put it down.

From one “Niner Domestic” to another, Thanks, Brenda!

Where to find “dependent.”

BRENDA COREY DUNNE, trained as a physiotherapist, worked several years as a Physiotherapy Officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force before meeting the love of her life, RCAF Colonel Tom Dunne, and becoming a military dependent herself. Due to posting this summer, Brenda and her family recently sold their small hobby farm in Eastern Ontario and successfully drove across Canada hauling a horse in a trailer.

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