London Book Review

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Mary Lou Darst : War Ready: In My Father’s Shadow | London Book InterviewMary Lou Darst

Devastated, and doomed but not forsaken. Get ready to be emotional for this book is going to stir up your emotions away as this young girl recovers from her trauma. If only you could go back, and wipe your memory of a book just to relive a frisson of excitement of reading it for the first time, War Ready in my Father’s Shadow by Mary Lou Darst would be it. 

Mary Lou Darst is an independent writer and author who wrote War Ready in my Father’s Shadow which is a memoir of her early life as a military dependent.

1. What made you want to write this memoir?

My grandsons were three and five. It was a delight and a joy to be with them. I wanted them to know about Mimi (Mary Lou) and how I grew up. Would they understand moving, packing, traveling by ship, and being around people who did not speak English?

I decided to write about growing up while traveling around the world, and living in Alaska, Japan, and Germany.

2. What was it like to grow up in a home that moved so frequently while other kids’ homes remained stationary?

It meant that I was always an outsider, the one who had not lived in that city, and had no relatives or connections to the area. This made it sometimes difficult for students in that city to accept a newcomer.

3. Do you miss moving all the time?

Yes, I miss moving all the time, even though I love where I live. There is no excitement in living a stationary life. No need to have my passport stamped. No groups of people who do not speak English, wear unusual clothes from another land or eat delicious food that I have never tasted. Living a stationary life somehow leaves all of that behind.

4. Tell me about a time when you felt most at peace and content.

Living with my mother’s parents in Houston was very peaceful and contently. I was much loved, not only by my grandparents, but also by my aunts and uncles, and cousins. When we lived in Nara, Japan, I felt great contentment with Hatsi, our young housekeeper. She was like a big sister to me. She loved my young brother, Frank, as well.

When we lived in Munich, I felt great contentment being in the quiet forest across the street from our apartment. I was not supposed to cross the street and go into the forest, but I longed for the quiet beauty of the trees. I went when my parents were not at home only once or twice and did not stay long at all.

5. How has writing this story impacted your life?

Writing this story made me look back at my past and reflect on the many changes we experienced in countries around the world. I began to see our lives through a different pair of eyes as an adult. I began to understand the pressure my parents must have felt living overseas with two children to care for and worry about. Living in places where people did not care for Americans was a new experience for all of us.  

Some people did not want Americans living in their country. In some instances, we made wonderful friends who became like family. Perhaps the fear of being pointed out, and embarrassed by foreigners because I was an American made me very cautious. I still avoid groups and crowds.

6. How did your family’s military background play a role in shaping the way you live your life?

Everything in the house has to have a place and remain neatly in place. Closets, drawers, furniture, toys, books, whatever, have to be neatly placed. Meeting people is easy for me, but I never learned to keep friends because we moved so much.  There is an order to everything in my life. 

7. What do you hope readers take away from reading your story?

It is my hope that readers will learn from reading War Ready how fortunate we are to live and speak freely, follow our lives as we wish to live them, be open to those who are different, speak a different language, and come from another culture.

8. What is one thing that readers would be surprised to learn about you, given the memoir and your previous interviews?

One thing that readers might be surprised to learn about me is that my family is so important to me.  As much as we traveled, as many people as we met, and as many historic places we visited, my favorite place is being at home with my family.

9. What are the three words that best describe you?

Three words that best describe me could be: Friendly, loving, caring, loves animals, dogs!

10. Do you have any upcoming books? Can you tell us a little bit about it?

I do not have any other books written at this time.

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