Imagine walking unaware into your house and overhearing your best friend Candy and your husband Logan arguing in your bedroom about the baby they’ve made, and conspiring not to tell her husband O.B. After all, it would kill him to know that his best friend Logan has betrayed him. That is the situation in which pharmacist and independent mother of two, Keri Slater finds herself the day before her husband, Army combat medic Logan ships out on his fourth tour of duty from their idyllic home in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Both men are part of the last deployments to Afghanistan before the president’s draw down of troops in the spring of 2014, and the two couples have been friends and neighbors for four years. Four long, convenient years. Could it be that Logan has deftly concealed his affair with Candy from Keri since she’s known him, or is this just a grave misunderstanding that she lets spin out of control, leaving Keri second guessing everything she’s said, done, and seen during the last six years of her life?
A wall has always surrounded the silent side of Staff Sergeant Logan Slater, but Keri has attributed his reticence to his introverted personality, along with his altruistic desire to protect her from the horrors of war he’s experienced, not to covering up an affair with her neighbor and best friend, Candy O’Brien. A horrific event forces Keri to figure out the truth for herself—the truth that could destroy all four of them as the story unravels. Her children, three-year-old Cole and five-year-old Lacey challenge her to pledge her allegiance to her friends, the way Keri and Logan have always taught them, but are they too young to understand such abstract concepts, and to fathom what really goes on in the lives of grownup men and women?
“Cheers for Allegiance! A great work penned by a writer with an acute sense of social and emotional depth. This is a powerful story that quickly had me questioning my own humanity. This book is also a beacon of hope. Most of us have experienced the range of emotions woven into this story at one time or another. Keri and Logan’s journey is a roadmap showing all of us how to treat our fellow man. Mary Flinn at her finest!” ~A.W. Hammock, former U.S. Army Ranger and author of Night of the Hatchet
Will Betrayal Destroy Best Friends in Mary Flinn’s Newest Novel?
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, and 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 practice, 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. And 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.”
~ Tyler R. Tichelaar, Ph.D. and author of the award-winning Narrow Lives