Reader's Guide

Standing By


Standing By Reader’s Guide for Book Groups

The author says in the introduction that the intensity of life as a military spouse has transformed her into a warrior on behalf of her children. Is there something inherent about mothering in the midst of crisis that causes this reaction for parents everywhere?

Millie and Martina have dramatically different approaches to how to live life as a military spouse, and their attitudes are strikingly different. Explore and discuss the two outlooks.  How do these attitudes help each woman cope with life during deployment? How might those attitudes ultimately be helpful or destructive?

Many families must relocate due to one partner’s job.  In what ways are there differences between a civilian family that moves to a new location because of a new career opportunity, and a military family that relocates because of a new posting?

The author speaks of the first civics lesson she gives her children, when the three of them are watching the flag come down during “retreat,” and how she answers her son when he asks why they must remain quiet and still. Do you think her explanation about the significance of the flag is appropriate? How would you explain an abstraction like patriotism to a young person?

Families of some officers – in this case, a squadron commander – live in a fishbowl environment where their behavior is scrutinized by many.  Other families, such as those of religious ministers or political figures, describe their lives the same way.  Is it fair to bring children up in this way? Might this sort of attention to a family’s actions cause them to act one way in public and differently in private?

Are military wives today more likely to make decisions for themselves in the same way that economic empowerment has given women the freedom to make their own choices in life, or do you feel that the position of military wives has remained unchanged throughout the decades? If so, what is the source of military wives’ empowerment? If not, why not?

Was there a particular character with whom you felt closest (similar educational background, socioeconomic status, family makeup, etc.)? What was it about her story that you most identified with?

The author describes the military as a “secular faith” and “working man’s religion,” stating that it draws people with a belief in something bigger than themselves. Does this inspire a feeling of alienation or admiration? Discuss her assessment of religion in Standing By, and how it affects her outlook after the family moves to Washington State.

Has the integration of women in the military has changed how we look at servicemembers? Is there still a sense of the military as a “boys’ club”?

What did you find surprising about the facts about children who experience the deployment of a parent?

How has reading this book changed your opinion of or interest in military families?