Inspired by true events, Indivisible is a story of love, service, and finding each other all over again. Darren and Heather Turner share a passion for serving God, family, and country. When Darren is deployed to Iraq as an army chaplain, Heather vows to serve military families back home as she cares for the couple’s three young children.
Darren knows he’s overseas to support the troops in their suffering as their chaplain. What he doesn’t know is how he will get through his own dark moments. And as communication from Darren dwindles, Heather wonders what is happening in her husband’s heart. Meanwhile, she’s growing weary in the day-to-day life of a military base—each child’s milestone Darren will never see, each month waiting for orders, each late-night knock on the door. When Darren returns, he is no longer the husband Heather once knew. She is no longer the woman Darren wed. And so it’s at home that the Turners face their biggest battle: to save their marriage. Based on the screen play by David Evans, Indivisible is a tribute to the beauty of serving our country, the courage of choosing love in the darkness, and the power of a God who never gives up hope.
Inspired by a true story, Indivisible tells the story of Army chaplain Darren Turner, whose deployment in Iraq ends up challenging the foundation of his marriage to wife Heather. Based on the original screenplay by David Evans, this book features a foreword from the real Darren & Heather Turner, where Darren says that while the film has taken creative license in parts (to be expected), much of what made it to screen is a pretty accurate portrayal of their story.
In May of 2007, Darren Turner is sent to Iraq to serve as chaplain to the troops there. While he does his best to provide comfort to soldiers emotionally struggling, he comes to find he has his own struggle with inner dark thoughts. It begins to wear him down as he tries to find balance between duty to his job and his family back home.
Back home, wife Heather notices a decrease in communications on Darren's end. She tries to be patient, but it's hard when she has her own tough and lonely journey as a military wife and really just wants a spouse she can have some bonding time with. When Darren does make it back home, his overall demeanor is noticeably different. Pretty quickly, life for the two becomes a fight to save their marriage.
On the surface, that sounds like a pretty touching story, as long as the reader can hope for a happy ending, right? Judging from the high praise of this work, it seems to have hit the mark just fine for many. Me, not so much. For reasons I'll get into in a minute, I came not to be all that impressed with Darren, at least how he comes off in this book.
Right from the foreword, I was a little bothered that it's titled as being from both Darren and Heather, but Heather is not given her own space to share her own perspective. We only get things from Darren's point of view. Read past that and into the novelization itself, and Darren still gets top billing. The story's actually not as much of a Team Turner production as it's advertised to be. In fact, this thing read like one big humble brag on Darren's end. Perhaps the onus of that lies on the shoulders of Travis Thrasher's fictionalization of Darren's story, but I have to think Darren had some say and must have okay'd how he was portrayed here.... and come to think of it, why wasn't this just done as a nonfiction account to begin with?!
Darren's characterization in general here was a large part of the problem for me. The underlying sexism that was hinted at in the foreword ("I am the man, I speak for both of us" attitude) shows its face even in the novel, when Darren is shocked to find that Sergeant Peterson is A WOMAN?! *Insert Scooby-Doo noise*
A few other scenes I found bothersome:
* Friends throw Darren a going away party after he shares news of his upcoming deployment. As party guests are leaving, he gives everyone a long letter, the contents of which are shared in the novel. This letter basically amounts to more humble brag, scattered with "don't grieve for me", "just what I was called to do" and other unnecessary martyr-ish nonsense sentiments that scream of fake humility. If you want to get that stuff off your chest, just say a little something at the party real quick. The whole letter thing was definitely an ego stroke for him. It just read too over the top to me.
* There's another part of the story that describes the time when Darren is still overseas and his communications to his wife start to drop off. She's sending him multiple emails begging from a word from him. He's hanging out at the base, it would be easy enough to shoot her a quick line and say, "Hey, just really busy but yeah, I'm good. Miss you." It's even mentioned that one of his CO's sees his email page open and mentions that Darren should let his wife know he's okay. Darren's response is basically, "Yeah, I know but meh, I'm busy." IT'S YOUR WIFE. YOU ARE IN A WAR ZONE. If you have the time and the ability, TELL HER YOU'RE OKAY. OMG. He also ends up forgetting their anniversary. When he does finally call her, what does he say? "Oh hey babe, can you start putting together Christmas stockings for the troops here?" When she asks how many he's thinking exactly he casually says, "Give or take a thousand." A THOUSAND. For a woman already swamped with raising three kids by herself for over a year. Yeah, cool. Not insensitive or selfish to ask this of your depressed, stressed out wife at all.
Now don't hate on me btw, I was all for the idea of sending gifts to the troops. My beef is just with the way he dropped that on her like that after all that radio silence and then forgetting her anniversary. I'm just saying it definitely read like a man who doesn't see that he is most definitely taking the blessing of a loyal spouse for granted. Which is a HUGE peeve of mine. Like a solid life partner can be found just any old place. No! You gotta honor that gold! On the other hand though, Heather is also insanely quick to forgive Darren's lousy treatment of her, which I was also bothered by... having a successful traditional marriage setup does not require that one person be an emotional doormat, but it seems to be a dang trend these days!
*The portion of the story where Darren comes back home and he and Heather try to find their new normal and work out their differences... that all felt very rushed. Again, Heather is quick with forgiving Darren before he quite deserves it, and he has one unbelievably cruel scene where he dares to ask what her contribution was while he was out serving the country. That sealed it for me. After that, I was done with anything he had to say.
*Darren didn't strike me as all that great a pastor. I can't get behind someone who, when faced with someone grieving, questioning the existence of a loving God in the face of such horrors as those that come out in times of war, responds with an attitude of Well, if you won't immediately accept what I'm saying as correct, then you clearly are not listening and I have nothing else to say to you right now.
The problems continue. The dialogue between characters reads like a low budget tv movie. While I was reading, I could actually almost hear the sappy music drifting behind several of these scenes. The reader is also practically beaten over the head with the level of evangelism soaked into the text. Not really my cuppa. Then there was the subtle but definitely present biased military-themed propaganda, the whole "we're the good guys, THEY'RE evil". Yet again, here's a story making unfair blanket statements towards an entire group of people -- in this case, Muslims -- blaming the many not full of hate, just trying to quietly live their lives, for the sins of the minority group of extremists.
Darren's character is disturbingly flippant in his letters back home, "Things are going good, we are killing lots of bad guys!" I understand not wanting your family back home to worry, but maybe have a moment, a pause, of solemn acknowledgement for the tragic, horrible vacuum a war zone creates for families, on all sides of the equation. Maybe remind yourself that no one is really winning in this scenario. Maybe, just maybe don't go in with the attitude of a new age megachurch pastor on the first day of summer bible school. Reality hits Darren just pages after this scene, as he witnesses a young Iraqi girl struck by stray gunfire brought into the base for treatment. Watching her slowly die, he thinks of how close in age the girl is to one of his own daughters. Why does it so often take the death of someone for people to see others of a different race from your own are -- wild I know! -- in fact, people too. That the good guy / bad guy isn't always as clear as your narrow, sheltered viewpoint would have you believe.
I have not yet seen the film this novelization was based off of, but honestly... just reading this book, I'm disappointed this was published at all.
FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.