Sacrifice: A Gold Star Widow’s Fight for the Truth

Putnam. May 2021. 352p. ISBN 9780593190937. $28. MEMOIR
With this debut, Black details the death of her husband and coming to terms with the fact that her life would never be the same afterward. She begins by recounting the shattering moment when chaplains notified her that her Green Beret husband, Bryan Black, had died fighting the Islamic State in Niger. Questions of the mission’s operational legitimacy were under a gag order; when the gag order was lifted, Michelle began interviewing survivors and piecing together the last moments of her husband’s life. Black’s narrative hauntingly encapsulates her grief, which did not end after Bryan’s funeral or after the condolences stopped; she writes that her paralyzing grief was refocused into purpose. Her book’s detailed research, based on new reporting and military memos, is one of the most complete accounts of the events of that fateful day. This research adds context, though a bibliography would have also been helpful. Black stirringly argues, “When we use the word sacrifice, we often imagine one act. Really, sacrifice is a way of life.”
VERDICT A Gold Star family’s faltering path towards normalcy in the wake of loss is documented alongside a failed military operation. Though the book loses a little momentum towards the end, Black’s recollections on grief are especially poignant.
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