The day David left, I felt like my heart was breaking. Sure, any long–distance relationship is tough, but David was going to war—to fight, to protect, to put his life in danger. We can get through this, though. We’ll talk, we’ll email, we won’t let anything come between us.

I can be on army girlfriend for one year. But will my sweet, soulful, funny David be the same person when he comes home? Will I? And what if he doesn’t come home at all…?


This is the sort of book that has potential to be a little too close to home for many of us. I, thankfully, never had a boyfriend or significant other go into the military, but I saw way too often what it did to those who did. It’s heartwrenching, it is painful and it’s real. While He Was Away made that so much more *obvious* and clear for me. Getting to see into the eyes of a character whose boyfriend was gone and fighting. Listening and wondering just what would happen.

I love Penna, she’s strong. She’s real. Her boyfriend is gone, so her mother gets her to do the one thing she knows to “distract” her – get a job. Penna slowly rebuilds her own life without David, while still maintaining a relationship with David. Her new friends – I love. I feel for Penna in a way I really didn’t expect to. Many readers say they love to read realistic books that put them in a situation they’ve never been in. If this is you, check out this book!

Karen’s guest post below tells how the story came to be and after reading the guest post I love this book even more!

I received my copy of While He Was Away from the publisher/Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion for this tour.

Stories My Mother Told Me…and the Ones She Never Did

I think a lot about family stories, perhaps because I’m an only child, and now that both of my parents are dead—no longer living, I almost wrote, because the other, more naked statement is still sometimes hard for me to write—I feel like I’m the only one left who can and will carry them.

Sometimes the family stories rattle around in my head, demanding attention all at once, and I don’t know where to focus—I guess that can be the effect of remembering. But other times, (especially when I follow the advice that great writer and teacher once gave me, which was: “Write where the pressure is!”) a particular story will rise up above the others and say: “Pick me.”

That’s what happened with While He Was Away.

I got quite and waited until the pressure revealed itself—and it was a story my mother told me in three simple sentences right before she died when I was fourteen.

Her story went like this.

“I was married before I married your father. I was very young. My first husband died in WWII.”

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That was it. That was all she would say.

She knew she was dying, and she wanted me to know this truth about herself. For years afterward, no one else said a word about it, and then finally, it was revealed that there was really very little to say—only the classic: “They were childhood sweethearts, deeply in love; it was like a dream”—and then there were a few pictures that a cousin gave me—my mother, young and beautiful, in love with a young and beautiful boy.

When I started thinking about the other young and beautiful boys and girls who were heading off to Iraq to do battle for all kinds of reasons, I found myself thinking again about my mother, the girl, and her boy, and how in some ways, love in wartime is so different now, and in other ways, it isn’t all.

I wanted to retell the story she told me in three simple sentences, and it turned into a novel, While He Was Away.


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