four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
39-Mar-Apr-2009
By: 
Dana Canedy
user_rating: 
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A Story of Love and Honor

A-A Journal for JordanDana Canedy is a senior editor at the New York Times. In 2001, she shared the Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on that paper’s series "How Race Is Lived in America." This is her first book.

The Topic: First Sergeant Charles Monroe King saw his infant son, Jordan, once before he was killed by an improvised explosive device in Iraq. But at the urging of his journalist fiancée, Dana Canedy, he had begun a journal of his thoughts on life and manhood that could guide the boy if he did not return home. Canedy bases this memoir on that journal, but also includes the story of her and King’s relationship. Coming from a military family herself, she at first resisted the advances of the career soldier whose life seemed so distant from the world of the New York media. After her loss, Canedy used her journalistic skills to share her love for King, to piece together what happened to him, and to make sense of the world without him.
Crown. 288 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 0307395790

Denver Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Sgt. Charles King is but one of the roughly 4,500 fatalities among U.S. servicemen and women; there is no reason to think that the grief he’s left behind is unique. Canedy captures the unique magnificence of the man she loved in a way that brings the beginnings of an understanding to the losses that other families bear." Robin Vidimos

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"A Journal for Jordan is a hauntingly beautiful account of a family fractured by war. … Portraying herself as ‘loquacious, assertive and impatient’ as well as ‘obstinate and impulsive,’ the author brings light and air to what might otherwise be a claustrophobic tale." Danielle Trussoni

New York Times 4 of 5 Stars
"There is subtle parsing here of crosscurrents of race and class: both Ms. Canedy and Sergeant King have climbed beyond the sphere of their parents’ achievements and of their modest neighborhoods, but Ms. Canedy has scaled higher. … Not all great love stories are ignited by the lightning bolt of love at first glance; this humbler I’m-going-to-talk-myself-into-this-good-man version is believable and real." Melissa Fay Greene

USA Today 4 of 5 Stars
"Jordan Canedy is a lucky boy, if you can call a boy without a father lucky. But most children aren’t left a 200-page journal written by their dad. A man-to-man talk of sorts. … This book is a gift, and not only to Jordan." Craig Wilson

Entertainment Weekly 3 of 5 Stars
"[Canedy] channeled her grief into A Journal for Jordan, turning the tale of their life together—and of King’s tragic death, one month before the end of his tour of duty—into a story for their son, with excerpts from King’s own journal. Canedy’s often workmanlike prose style somewhat mutes the book’s power, but it’s impossible not to be affected by her story." Leah Greenblatt

Critical Summary

It would be difficult to anyone to resist being affected by the events recalled in A Journal for Jordan, and critics were no exception. A Journal for Jordan "is impossible to read without a sense of bitter knowledge that this principled man fell at the behest of leaders less guided by honor," noted the New York Times. In addition to being moved by this true story, reviewers praised specific aspects of Canedy’s writing, which gave the book depth and authenticity. They particularly admired her heartfelt but unsentimental descriptions of both her relationship with her fiancé and the process of her grief. Taken together, these factors led reviewers to assess A Journal for Jordan as more than an inspiring tale about fathers and sons; indeed, it is a story about a remarkable woman as well.