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About The Book

An Indie Next Pick!

“A haunting, beautifully written celebration of found sisterhood.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A fearless, engaging, and important memoir.” —Library Journal, starred review
“[A] gorgeously rendered peek behind the curtain of military life.” —Booklist, starred review

A captivating memoir that tells the story of one woman’s experience of joining a community of army wives after leaving her New York City job—a profoundly intimate look at marriage, friendship, and today’s America.

When her new husband joins an elite Army unit, Simone Gorrindo is uprooted from New York City and dropped into Columbus, Georgia—a town so foreign she might as well have landed on the moon. With her husband frequently deployed, Simone is left to find her place in this new world, alone—until she meets the wives.

Gorrindo gives us an intimate look into the inner lives of a remarkable group of women and a tender, unflinching portrait of a marriage. A love story, an unforgettable coming-of-age tale, and a bracing tour of the intractable divisions that plague our country today, The Wives offers a rare and powerful gift: a hopeful stitch in the fabric of a torn America.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Wives includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

Introduction

When her new husband joins an elite Army unit, Simone Gorrindo is uprooted from New York City and dropped into Columbus, Georgia—a town so foreign she might as well have landed on the moon. With her husband frequently deployed, Simone is left to find her place in this new world, alone—until she meets the wives.

Gorrindo gives us an intimate look into the inner lives of a remarkable group of women and a tender, unflinching portrait of a marriage. A love story, an unforgettable coming-of-age tale, and a bracing tour of the intractable divisions that plague our country today, The Wives offers a rare and powerful gift: a hopeful stitch in the fabric of a torn America.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. “If I have to choose between you and the Army, it’s the Army,” Andrew tells Simone in a strained moment during their early conversations about his enlistment. Despite her strong reservations about the war and fears for him, she still leaves the job and the city she loves to follow her new husband to the South and support his military aspirations. Discuss how you might have reacted in Simone’s position. Do you understand Andrew’s decision? How much of your own lifestyle would you compromise for your partner’s dreams? Does love necessitate sacrifice? Is the answer to this question different for men than it is for women?

2. What are the stereotypes attached to an “Army wife” and military families in general? How does Simone challenge our understanding and assumptions about their lives? Did anything surprise you about the wives? Do you identify with any of the wives? Why or why not?

3. Central to Simone’s memoir is the search for belonging and community in unfamiliar spaces, the desire for a true and enduring feeling of home. Consider the varied meanings of home. Is home a place, a person, a state of mind? How do we discover it in ourselves, in our environments, in each other? How do we know when we’ve found it?

4. As she begins to adapt to the ways of life of her new community in Georgia, Simone quickly recognizes that for the wives of the Unit, motherhood “allowed you to take up space. . . . It made you matter.” Discuss the role of children and pregnancy as a source of connection and a grounding force for the wives. How does Simone’s relationship with the wives change during her pregnancy? Then consider your own views on motherhood. How much do you think the time and place in which you were raised influences your attitudes on women’s priorities?

5. “I had a high tolerance for loneliness,” Simone writes early on in her memoir. This tolerance is quickly challenged by the grueling circumstances of Andrew’s repeated deployments, and as anxiety and depression settle in, she establishes a kind of codependence with the wives for her own survival. Have you ever formed a relationship built on circumstances of mutual need? Discuss Simone’s dark spiral, Rachel’s support, and the beauty and strain of these essential bonds.

6. “The men had the architecture of the Army to hold them up wherever they were. . . . The wives, on the other hand, were left to erect their own scaffoldings.” Reflect on the unique dynamics and hierarchies of the wives’ gatherings, based on such factors as their husbands’ ranking, their age, their child status, and others. Delve into key commonalities and differences between them. As Simone works to find herself and her place in their midst, how does she decide what parts of herself to let go of, compromise, or allow to be altered? Consider how being deeply vulnerable with others creates room for growth and transformation in Simone’s life, and in your own.

7. In many ways, communication, or lack thereof, is an essential thread in The Wives: what is shared or goes unspoken, what is forbidden to discuss, what can be translated across distance. In Andrew’s world of confidentiality, communication is fraught with risk; for Simone, as a writer, words carry great importance, but the wives’ primary assignment is silence. Discuss the ways in which both partners navigate these obstacles and come to terms with the unknowable parts of one another. How does love transcend secrecy? What are the limits?

8. Love and violence coexist closely in Simone’s world. Describing the initial strength of her marriage, she writes, “Time wouldn’t tear it down. You’d need heavy equipment, a fire fed with kerosene. You’d need violence. That’s how I felt about our relationship.” Later, confronted with one of Andrew’s weapons, she memorably asks of herself—and readers—“Tell me why you allow violence to put food on your table.” In another exchange with Hailey: “Do people ever think about what it’s like to be married to . . . rough men? That these guys we’ve hitched ourselves to are killers?” In the final passage of the book, we find the piercing revelation: “It was terrifying to love someone.” Delve into this further, discussing the ways in which an acceptance of violence underpins much of modern life in forms both visible and invisible.

9. “These days, Wife was my entire identity. At times, the title sounded like a nag to me. . . . I chafed so fiercely against the title’s constraints. . . . No one here knew me as a writer. Everyone knew me as a wife,” Simone admits. Consider the term “wife” and all that is associated with it in Simone’s world—and your own. How does it at once serve as a “badge of honor” and an erasure of identity? In what ways is it empowering—and limiting? What new associations does the title of the memoir carry for you after reading?

10. Discuss the symbolism of the “grog” and the “glow of belonging” on the night that Simone decides she’s ready to start a family with Andrew. What does Simone realize about her husband, and about herself, during the Ball? Why now?

11. What is the enduring glue that holds the wives together? Do you think a wife who lost her husband in service would still remain part of the group? What about a wife who gets divorced? Is theirs a deeper connection that will outlast their circumstances, or only as long as they are married to a soldier in the Unit? Reflect on the relationships that Simone formed in Georgia that may or may not carry on in her new life in Washington, and the importance of friendships that serve temporary but meaningful roles in our lives.

12. Discuss the continued relevance of Simone’s story in today’s America. How do you think The Wives would be different if the events within took place during or after the Trump presidency? How have relationships across political, social, and class divides shifted or weakened? How might you transcend differences and foster stronger relationships and communities within your own life?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. What aspects of The Wives will stay with you the most? Describe the emotions, insights, and remaining questions you had upon finishing the book.

2. List all of the rules and guidelines that the wives are formally asked to follow or which stand as unspoken expectations. Which surprised you the most? How do you think the rules might differ for male spouses of enlisted women?

3. Who do you think will benefit the most from reading The Wives? Describe which aspects of Simone’s story you believe will resonate with various audiences, and why. What made you pick it up?

4. Select a new topic, character, or line of dialogue not previously discussed above and delve into it.

About The Author

Photograph by Jessica Uhler

Simone Gorrindo’s writing has appeared in The New York Times, New York magazine, Longreads, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Christian Science Monitor, The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Self, and others. She holds an MS in journalism from Columbia University, and has received fellowships and grants for her writing and reporting from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Georgia Council for the Arts, and the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences. She lives in Tacoma, Washington, with her husband and two children. The Wives is her first book.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press (April 9, 2024)
  • Length: 416 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982178499

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Raves and Reviews

* "A haunting, beautifully written celebration of found sisterhood." Publishers Weekly, starred review

* "A fearless, engaging, and important memoir…Readers will learn the true meaning of military service through the wider lens of its impact on families and communities.” Library Journal, starred review

* “[A] gorgeously rendered peek behind the curtain of military life… Her family's sacrifices will leave readers thinking long after the final pages.” —Booklist, starred review

“Lyrical and poignant. An unforgettable memoir of sacrifice and determination.” —STEPHANIE LAND, author of the New York Times-bestselling memoir Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive

“The fineness of Gorrindo’s insight lends her writing the quality of looking through a prism, the details of the world around her both magnified and blurring, as she invites us into the secret world of army wives and the hidden planet of her own marriagefor what place is more strange and private and beautiful? This is a book about loving people even when you can’t understand them, and needing them even when you don’t like them, about being betrayed and unexpectedly saved, and ultimately about the power of human connection despite all our limitations. Gorrindo is a major talent." Rufi Thorpe, author of the PEN/Faulkner Award finalist The Knockout Queen

“In THE WIVES, Simone Gorrindo invites us into one of the largest, most insular clubs in America, exploring the loyalty and ferocity of female friendship under the most pressurized conditions. A memoir of great intimacy and generosity, THE WIVES asks aching questions about loving a person you'll never completely understand, and what it means to build a life around the constancy of war. Simone Gorrindo is a dazzling talent." —Katie Gutierrez, bestselling author of More Than You'll Ever Know

“A moving account of the power of love, trust, and human frailty.” —Rachel Louise Snyder, National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and author of Women We Buried, Women We Burned

"A gripping story about how to build community with a group of strangers whose hands you must hold for your own sanity and survival. Gorrindo centers the women who sacrifice their professions, personal preferences, and peace of mind for their husbands' careers and refuses to shy away from the hard questions, both personal and global, at the heart of US military service. The Wives is a completely immersive read and a beautifully written page-turner. A triumph." —Christie Tate, New York Times bestselling author of Group

"An intimate memoir of sacrifice and devotion." —Kirkus

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