Mary Flinn's Allegiance
As Allegiance opens, US Staff Sergeant Logan and Keri Slater’s son, Cole is learning the Pledge of Allegiance. Three-year-old Cole doesn’t know what many of the words mean. His sister, kindergartener Lacey, is stumped. Keri explains that to pledge allegiance is like making a promise, being loyal. “Like I promise to be Daddy’s wife, no matter what…. You stick with somebody until the end. Like the way Daddy…go[es] away to serve our country.”
Keri’s pledge to her husband is put to the test. Logan is seriously wounded while on deployment. Keri becomes a caregiver, emotionally and physically taxing. Compounding this difficult role is an overheard conversation revealing that Logan had an affair with her best friend, Candy and there was a pregnancy. Keri is heartbroken and angry yet remains a caregiver for Logan.
Why did author Mary Flinn choose the word “allegiance” to depict the bonds of friendships and marriage? Why not love or trust? Mary explained, “Allegiance seemed to be the perfect title and it came to me as I began the first chapter when Logan is making Keri change the tire. As an army wife, Keri feels the same allegiance to her husband and family as Logan does to his country. She is serving as well since it falls to her to raise their children and carry on while he is deployed and knowing he might not come back.”
This pledge goes beyond love and trust, embracing loyalty even when love or trust is in doubt. For military families, this allegiance is often put on the line. How far does allegiance-promise-stick with somebody-- go? Mary shared that some readers felt that Keri was too saint like, not realistic. “Of course, I wrote it that way on purpose to show her strength of character…. Ideals are what we strive for but maybe not always possible,” Mary told me. As a caregiver myself, I communicate with those in this challenging position. Many, like Keri, strive daily to honor their loved ones with care and dignity, even when the love wears thin.
There is a parallel that came to mind in the Fifth Commandment to honor your parents. Why doesn’t the Commandment say to “love” your parents? Rabbinic commentary tells us that love cannot be mandated—but what can be mandated is respect and dignity. Even those who love parents may not act respectfully. And those who may not love parents are nonetheless required to respect them, preserving their dignity. Mothers and fathers are honored equally.
Relationships are at the core of Allegiance. Both Logan and Keri are forced to painfully analyze themselves and their relationship, affecting not only the two of them but their children as well. “Through her allegiance to Logan and helping him through his crisis, Keri falls in love with him again,” Mary reflected.
A crisis for so many families is when a family member becomes sick or injured and a relative must become a caregiver. Logan’s battle with a life-threatening injury is one military and first responder families often face. Mary’s experience as a speech therapist included time working in a hospital rehabilitation unit, seeing first-hand some of the difficulties in recovering speech.
Logan’s loss of speech is a real result of his trauma; it is also a metaphor for his and other’s lack of communication and miscommunication. Mary analyzed, “Talking is such a crucial part of the story and miscommunication was the crux of the plot,” as were lying and secrecy. Communication becomes entwined with love, trust and integrity.
Communication as a parent is also integral to this story. “The whole idea of how much to tell children in difficult situations is perplexing because they are often too young to understand adult issues. We tend to omit details to spare their young hearts and minds but then they must learn difficult things at some point,” Mary noted.
The strong development of the novel’s characters, the difficult situations that test the strongest of families and the love that ultimately emerges makes this a heartwarming story. Honor and loyalty to country, sadly not always seen these days, reminds us that this same allegiance binds families and communities. Mary Flinn is a writer whose works I will look for again in the future.
Keri is always dieting so I created a Roasted Vegetable Tart in a Short Crust Pastry—vegetables yet a bit snazzy, paired with Logan’s favorite steak or meatloaf.