After 9/11, Kris Hidvegi, a young birder from Patagonia, Arizona, joins the U.S. Army to serve her country, and to follow in her famous father’s footsteps. Kris becomes an X-ray tech in Iraq. The story starts on the first day of the second half of her life, at the moment when she wakes up deaf, bloodied, and severely wounded by a roadside bomb. More
After 9/11, Krisztina Hidvegi, a young birder from Patagonia, Arizona, joins the U.S. Army to serve her country, and to follow in the footsteps of her famous father, a retired Green Beret who served in Vietnam. Kris becomes an X-ray tech in Iraq. Kris starts her story at the beginning of the second half of her life, at the moment when she wakes up deaf, bloodied, and severely wounded by a roadside bomb. The story follows her through the medical system set up by the U.S. military to rescue, stabilize, and transport servicemen and women wounded in Iraq. Eventually, Kris works her way home to her childhood house on the high prairie grasslands of Southeast Arizona, in the small town of Patagonia. While adjusting to her physical handicaps, she avoids any discussion of her emotional state, while trying to figure out what she will do with the rest of her life.
The book looks at life in Southeast Arizona, where birdwatchers and butterfly collectors cross paths with armed drug smugglers and human traffickers in the oak and pine-covered mountains along the Mexican border. Southeast Arizona is home to Fort Huachuca, a secretive Army base that—only in America—allows birdwatchers access to parts of the base (after they have filled out reams of paperwork).
While this novel is a work of fiction, it is based on real experiences of soldiers who have been severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan. A lot of news coverage has been given to male combatants wounded in these two wars, but there have been quite a number of “non-combatant” female soldiers, airmen, and marines wounded and killed. The burden placed upon wounded females who have lost limbs is unfathomable. Now home in the United States, these women struggle to regain normal lives after being discharged from the military. Some have recovered and adapted very well, while others struggle.
This book has been vetted by female current and former members of the U.S. Army, who have endorsed its message of hope.
Navy SEAL Pug Ironhorse is an important character in this novel, but Kris is the protagonist.