KIRKUS HAD THIS TO SAY:
This multigenerational epic follows heroine Julia Crockett’s journey from tomboy Army brat to military wife and beyond, from the Great Depression through Vietnam. “I want to be a general’s wife,” oft-abrasive Julia commands her colonel husband. Fortunately, Semsch’s deft depiction of the preteen who dreams of being a soldier nearly 50 years before women are allowed to do so provides enough context to Julia’s harsh manner and choices that the reader can’t help but wait and hope for her aha moment.
The appeal of Semsch’s novel is evident at the end when, knowing great changes lie ahead for the nation and its soldiers, the reader can’t help wondering how Julia Crockett will confront them.—Kirkus Indie
A READER’S REVIEW:
The imposing size of this book was deceptive because once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Although my husband was in the Navy, every military family will recognize the portrayal of military life. The character Julia is well drawn and shows just how important the wife is to her husband’s career and demonstrates the “sisterhood” that develops among the wives. The book captures not only military life, but the many changes in this country during the the 20th century. A very good read. An Amazon review from Key Largo, FL
Shaped by her military family, Julia Crockett, aged six, yearns to be a general like Fort Sill’s post commander when she grows up. Unfortunately, in the 1920s, women didn’t serve in the military, but her beloved Grandpa Harry, a garrulous retired major, says he is sure there will be other options to consider when the time comes. When, at the outset of WWII, Julia tells her father she plans to join the newly formed Women’s Army Corps, “I forbid it,” he says. “Damn it, I don’t care if you are almost twenty-one-years old. You’re still a member of this family, and I give the orders in this house.” They’d never turn his lovely rosebud into a clod of a female in a uniform! Never!
Strong-willed, beautiful, and persistent, Julia determines the only way to climb the ladder is to marry an ambitious lieutenant. However, a first hasty marriage to Lt. Robert Wells is doomed when, almost immediately, she meets his friend, Lt. David Morgan. David, too, is married. Six years later, the war now over, Julia and David meet again and find they are still very much in love. They marry in 1950 shortly before a police action is declared in Korea, and David joins a battle unit as they attempt to fight off the Chinese Communists on the China-North Korean border.
“I want to be a general’s wife, David,” Julia says. “It’s as simple as that. I don’t think we have time to investigate too many side trails if we’re going to get there.” Julia’s campaign to micro-manage David’s career begins when he transfers from artillery to intelligence—“a terrible mistake,” she tells him. Passionate and easy-going, David is a match for his vivacious, strong-minded wife, however, unafraid to challenge her or the powers-that-be.
Assignments take the family from Fort Sill to Washington, Tehran to Forts Carson and McNair, the U.S. Intelligence Command in West Berlin, and on to Vietnam, where son Harry discovers the harsh reality of war. Through it all, Julia’s quest to propel her husband to the rank of general officer, and to urge their four children to follow in the steps of their military ancestors never lets up. Four wars provide the backdrop to this family saga that encompasses several generations, and the storyline is filled with both boundless joy and profound sorrow as its cast of characters, Julia, David, and their four children, Harry, Beth, Skip, and Poppy serve around the world.
As the years go by, David’s patience with his wife’s singular determination to see stars on his epaulets wears thin, and Julia’s attempts to force her children to aim for the ranks of the military elite seem doomed to fail. When David retires as a colonel, she struggles to hide her disappointment. As a result of her reaction and in a fit of anger, he storms out. Is the extraordinary love Julia and David share strong enough to overcome their differences?
The years I spent living, traveling, and being a part of military life provided me with an intimate knowledge and understanding of it, especially in hindsight. My father, my husband, and a brother-in-law were all career army officers. I had a plethora of memories, ideas, and backgrounds for this novel. Although the characters are fictitious, The Sound of Caissons is based on events I experienced, or garnered from others. I am blessed with a spirited imagination, and I love to create a character and then watch him or her evolve and develop. Sometimes I have to hurry to keep up with where they’re taking the story. I think this memorable and authentic work of fiction will keep every reader absorbed from the first page to the last. If you like family sagas, I believe you’ll like this book. You heard it from the author!