Model Marine: A Novel

Fiction - Literary
284 Pages
Reviewed on 05/09/2018
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Sondra Sykes Meek is originally from Florida, but she has lived in several locations in the United States and abroad. She is a wife and mother of two, a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant, and a Project Manager in the Defense Industry. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She has several stories in various stages of progress and hopes to write full-time one day, but for now she writes in the spare, quiet moments of her life.

Sondra wrote and published Model Marine: A Novel to reveal the courage and sacrifices of Marines and their families. She wanted to offer readers another kind of hero: someone who is not supernatural, immortal, or from the future. The heroes of Model Marine are also not your typical military stereotypes. Although the events of this story are fiction, the setting and characters are influenced by the author's experiences as a Marine. The protagonist is named after a Marine Corps icon, “Molly Marine.” This is especially relevant now, as 2018 marks 100 years since the first woman joined the United States Marine Corps.

Sondra hopes all readers enjoy this emotional journey of love, loss, and sacrifice. There are real heroes hidden within the pages of her debut novel. She invites you to meet them, love them, and remember them.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite

Molly Monroe: beauty queen, hopeful performing arts major, destined for great things in front of and behind the camera. Molly is always sheltered by older brother Nick, her fierce protector and male role model in the Monroe household. Momma Donna does her best to guide Molly along the right track for a successful career and promising future. If only John Michaelson was not so handsome, so captivating. If only John Michaelson was not such a close friend to the Monroes. If only Molly desired the same things in life as her mother. If only Lieutenant John Michaelson, Nick Monroe’s best friend and the Alpha Company Platoon Commander, could support Molly’s decision to trade her beauty queen existence to be a United States Marine, life would be so much more uncomplicated.

Model Marine by Sondra Sykes Meek is more than a military-themed romance. Meek’s characters represent realistic individuals attempting to adjust to unfamiliar situations while facing life altering events. As a female service person, Molly Monroe is challenged by prejudices within a normally male populated work area. As she strives to prove her worth, she also must sort out her emotions in relationship to family, friends, relationships and work expectations. I really enjoyed the format of this novel, with short reading passages that tease the reader into consuming “just one more chapter.” The flashbacks revealed more insight into the character development while saving time to project the story. Discovering that author Sondra Sykes Meek is a retired Marine Corps Master Sergeant and a Project Manager in the Defense Industry proves that realistic based fiction is plausible and enjoyable.

Jack Magnus

Model Marine: A Novel is a military fiction novel written by Sondra Sykes Meek. Molly Monroe was the golden girl, the good girl whose future was carefully laid out and managed with the help of a loving, if somewhat overbearing, mother. She had encouraged her daughter to enter beauty pageants from the time she was small, something which continued through Molly’s teen years. Molly was an accomplished dancer and actor, whose love of Shakespeare was a guiding light in her life, and, when she was accepted at one of the best performing arts colleges, her future seemed secure. Then something happened that last summer, which had actually begun so perfectly. She and John were deeply in love, and their coupled friendship with her brother, Nick, and his girl, Beth, who was Molly’s best friend, seemed enduring and powerful. Then Molly went out with Beth one disastrous night, and everything changed. John, an officer in the Marines, was stunned to hear she had given up on college and had enlisted as a Marine. It meant that their relationship was now officially over.

Sondra Sykes Meek’s military fiction novel, Model Marine: A Novel, immerses the reader in the life of a Marine recruit, and it does so in such an effective way that I’ll never look at Marines in the same way again. I had always found it hard to comprehend why young people opted for the most hard-core military experience in choosing the Marines. And while I found the experiences Molly and her peers go through to be even more grueling than I had envisioned, I also began to understand the motivation of those who choose to become Marines. Molly comes of age so powerfully despite the trauma she had endured the previous summer. The beauty queen morphs into a survivor and a champion, and she easily exceeds all expectations -- both her own and those of the people who’ve known and loved her. Meek served in the Marines as a Marine Corps Master Sergeant, and her own experiences infuse the story with authenticity and dynamism. I was drawn into the tension and danger of the Middle East tours, and vicariously experienced the amazing rapport of Molly and her fellow soldiers.

Sondra Sykes Meek’s story is multi-layered and transcendent. She weaves past and present effortlessly as we see Molly’s early life and life as a Marine. Meek’s characters are compelling and genuine, and her writing is sheer pleasure to read. Her discussions of traumatic brain injury and rehabilitation after service-related injuries are eloquent and powerful. She also addresses the pressures of family expectations as well as the lasting impact of sexual assault in an empathetic and caring manner. Model Marine: A Novel is a marvelous read -- it’s most highly recommended.

Kim Anisi

Molly, the central character in Model Marine: A Novel by Sondra Sykes Meek, surprises everyone when she makes the decision to sign up to be a marine, a combat camera marine to be specific (which means she takes photos of other marines in action). Nobody seems to be happy with her decision. Her mother is upset. Her brother and her best friend feel guilty. And her boyfriend who has been deeply in love with her ends their relationship. She also runs into obstacles while on the job: it seems like women are still not treated equally. Molly fights for her rights, but also runs into an unexpected problem. Unfortunately, she is wounded during a mission - and this is where her mind starts spinning from the present to the past, to secrets well hidden. What happened to Molly to make her want to become a marine is slowly unveiled through the stories of a variety of characters close to her, and through Molly's flashbacks. How does a beauty queen turn into a combat photographer? Read this novel to find out!

I had some issues getting into Model Marine: A Novel by Sondra Sykes Meek for a while but I liked the idea of the story, so I kept reading - and it was worth it, so don't give up after a few pages! In a positive way, the book was not what I had expected. It had a clear lack of cliches, and was written - as I only learned later - by someone who has experienced that career herself. In this case, following the famous advice given to writers - "Write what you know" - has paid off. It is an intriguing story about a girl who grew into a woman who made her own decisions and then stood up for them, even when other people wanted her to take a different path. And it's a path you wouldn't expect from a pageant winner! The writing style changes and adapts to the situations, which I found very well done. Some authors know how to use language to nudge readers into feeling and believing things and Sondra Sykes Meek is one of them.