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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Sweete

Book Review - UNDERTOW: A U.S. Navy Veteran's Journey Through MST


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Diane Madden Ferguson’s UNDERTOW: A U.S. Navy Veteran’s Journey through Military Sexual Trauma, is more than just a Memoir. This book is a significant breakthrough in an era where silence was once the golden rule for women (and men) who suffer/suffered abuse at the hands of predators in positions of authority—positions often misused in some unholy ways. Where trust is broken, faith is shaken and dreams are shattered, the ocean of life threatens to swallow us whole. UNDERTOW could not have been more aptly titled or timed.

It was an honor to co-edit this first edition of UNDERTOW with Diane using one of this new era’s greatest technologies — video-phone. Together we worked fervently to get UNDERTOW underway for its induction in the Arlington library in November 2016. This, you may think, might make my review of UNDERTOW somewhat biased, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is that during that adrenalin-pumping six weeks—from the first time we sat together on video-phone on September 13th when I read her manuscript out loud to her to begin the editing process, to the moment we pressed the “PUBLISH” button together on October 28th—I read UNDERTOW, front to back, a total of 47 times.

47 times! Have you ever read a book 47 times? Have you ever read a book that you could even imagine wanting to read 47 times? Well, let me tell you that Diane’s UNDERTOW is a memoir worth reading that many times and MORE! Diane could have chosen to write it as a novel, fictionalizing and embellishing, and it would have been a New York Times best-seller. But she chose to “tell it like it was” straightforward and upfront in a Memoir (still could be a #1 NY Times best-seller!)—admitting the naivety of her youth, the gravity of the life and death situations she was pulled into, the secrets the military would rather we didn’t know, and the scars that remain for her to this day.

Lucky for many of the wolves in sheep’s clothing that sailed the watery prairies of the Navy at the time she was serving, Diane chose to keep their names anonymous. Nevertheless, anonymity cannot change the deeds that were done by those in a position of trust and power. Today, there are many women and men helping to fight this battle on new fronts, making it more difficult, if not impossible to allow this kind of abuse to continue in the U.S. military.

What stands out for me when I read this gutsy, gracious book is Diane’s perseverance through trauma and tragedy. Her sense of humor and self-honesty are truly stellar. I find myself (like a teenage boy who’s seen the movie Star Wars multiple times) often quoting from her book some of the best lines I’ve ever read. There are so many precious gems in this book I cannot count them all. If I had to choose a favorite, it would be from Chapter 2: “What Was I Thinking” which reads, “We reach a point in our lives where we have to forgive our parents for being human.” For, as this story unfolds, this becomes the profound universal truth applicable to all people everywhere—we have to forgive EVERYONE, including OURSELVES. And, then there is the question left resounding across time and space, which is, “What IS human?

I understand that as an editor it is difficult, at best, to review an author’s book that I’ve assisted with publishing; however, I’m going to have to go for the high dive into these deep waters anyway to tell you that this story is a ride you simply can’t miss. No good literary surfer would pass by a WAVE this tremendous!

Let Diane’s story take you into the UNDERTOW, bring you up for a gasp of air, and repeat, as you journey beside her from the depths of despair to the shores of salvation. And have the tissues handy because in between the moments of tragedy that bring you to tears, you are sure to be wiping them from your eyes from laughing so loud and hard at her phenomenal sense of humor!

And make sure you visit her website and her Twitter and Facebook to keep up-to-date with the progress being made by men and women across this great nation to “PROTECT AND SERVE THOSE WHO PROTECT AND SERVE.”

© Jennifer Sweete, Original post date in December 2016

Sweete Quote: “A book review is worth a thousand words . . . or more."

Blogging gives me a way to keep practicing my writing while keeping in touch with you! So please do post your thoughts, suggestions, critiques, and compliments (especially the compliments) in the Comments section. Just know that I'm too "frugal" to upgrade, so I can't comment on your comments unless you email them to me directly, which you can do on my Contact page!

Any typos found in this document are caused by sleep deprivation and/or watching cool youtube videos while proofreading. The author pleads insanity.


Look for my future Jennifer Sweete blog posts right here!

Need help editing your written work? I edit with you! Yes, WITH YOU!

How effective is your Indie Author marketing strategy? Ask me about my awesome Author Assist program to help you market your book(s) in 2020!

Books I am already reading or am looking forward to reading in 2020:

Pre-suasion by Robert Cialdini – Taking my time & copious notes . . .

The Way I Heard It by Mike Rowe – Oh my! Look for my review!

Loserthink by Scott Adams – When I can pry it from my husband's hands.

The Emotion Code by Dr. Bradley Nelson – Just arrived today. (Recommended by Rebecca who loves it.)

The Gold Finch by Donna Tartt – On order. (Recommended by Doris who praises it above the movie.)

Until we meet again, keep reading, keep writing, keep dreaming!

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