In Allegiance by Mary Flinn Keri Slater would seem to have the perfect life. A hunky husband, Logan and two adorable children, Lacey, age five, and Cole, age three. The family also has a support network of extended family, and just a few houses down the street live their best friends, O.B. and Candy.
But no one’s life is perfect. Logan is an Army medic, and O.B. is also in the military. The two are about to be deployed to Afghanistan for a tour of duty. The separation is difficult for both Keri and Candy, but they have each other for consolation.
Or at least they usually would. This time, things are different because the day before the deployment, Keri finds out a terrible secret that could destroy all their lives. On Saturday morning, after bringing her daughter to dance class , Keri returns home for something she forgot, and from the front door, she suddenly finds herself overhearing a conversation in her bedroom between her husband and her best friend.
Candy is confessing to Logan that she is in love with him—worse, as Keri listens, she comes to realize they have been having an affair, and the biggest shocker of all—Candy is pregnant with Logan’s child. Because she left the car running with Cole in the backseat, and she is not ready to face the people who have betrayed her, Keri rushes back out of the house—stunned, angry, and finding it hard to believe her marriage has suddenly turned into a bad cliché.
When she returns home later, there is no good time to talk to Logan. The children are there, one neighbor is talking to Logan outside, and then another neighbor comes over with a child with a broken arm and Logan brings them to the hospital. When Keri finally brings up the subject with Logan that evening, she is so angry and disgusted that she can barely speak to him and she sleeps in the guest room.
The next day does not go any better. The couple tries to keep up appearances for the children’s sake until Logan has to leave. When the family goes to the base to drop off Logan, they bump into Candy and O.B. and an awkward scene ensues in which they all remain silent to protect O.B. and the children, although Keri’s looks and a few choice words make it clear to Candy that they are no longer friends.
Now Keri is left alone with two children, wondering what kind of life she and Logan will have when he returns home. At first, divorce seems like the only real solution until a string of unforeseen events again turns her life upside-down.
Mary Flinn’s novels are always full of realistic people, loving couples facing difficult situations, and people growing as a result of the struggles they face. Although Flinn previously touched on the issue of adultery in her novel A Forever Man, never has the subject and the emotion been so raw and simultaneously enthralling as in Allegiance. I was completely compelled to keep reading, to find out what would happen next, and I repeatedly felt blindsided in a good way by the plot’s twists and turns.
One of the novel’s greatest strengths, in my opinion, is the way Flinn uses the children to create layers of meaning. The book’s title comes from the Pledge of Allegiance, a speech that young Cole learns to recite, although he doesn’t really understand the words. Early in the novel, Keri explains to her children what “allegiance” is. Using friendship as an example she explains that when you pledge allegiance to someone, you promise to be loyal always or that person’s friend forever.
But when the children don’t understand why Keri is no longer friends with Candy and they complain that they miss her, Keri does not know how to explain to them that sometimes pledges and allegiances must be broken. In fact, all the grownups try hard to be protective of the children throughout the situation.
Far more than just another romance novel or piece of women’s fiction, Allegiance is the story of a couple and a family coming to terms with the bad things that happen to them—bad things that people do, and the bad ways that people can react—and how they pick up the pieces and start over again. Male readers will find as much meaning, enjoyment, and wisdom in these pages as female readers.
While I don’t want to give away the ending, I will say that it is a happy, but also realistic, conclusion that neither Keri nor the reader could foresee in the beginning. There is no black and white here, but plenty of gray that, like a fog, must be worked through to find the daylight. As one of the characters states, “The only way out of some things is to go right through them.” Flinn holds back no punches but takes her characters through the problems, acknowledging that despite the grief and stress and frustration, love is always there when we are open to it because, “What is life without love?…. It seems it’s the only way we can heal ourselves.”
For more information about Mary Flinn and Allegiance, visit the author’s website.