Susan Galleymore, 'Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak About War and Terror'

IssueJune 2009
Review by Jenny Gaiawyn

Once you get past the introduction – which is poorly written and unfocused, with most of the important information repeated in the main body of the book – Long Time Passing is just what it says on the cover: a country by country breakdown of the effects of war and terror on mothers, families and society.

Each chapter – covering Palestine, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and the US – starts with a well-referenced history of recent events that have briefly appeared in the media before the cameras moved on to the next horror story with the victims left behind to grieve in silence.

Written by a “GI Mom”, this book can’t be criticised as the usual soapboxing. Susan Galleymore has children in the military and has visited the conflict areas to experience them herself.

The strongest thing about this book is that it challenges the myth, perpetuated both in the mainstream media and by peace activists and campaigners, that mothers affected by the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan are voiceless victims whose only contribution to the arguments are as mothers screaming and wailing over the body of another lost child. The book doesn’t focus too much on the circumstances of their lives – that information is, sadly, too easily found elsewhere – but on their thoughts and opinions, which are not only coherent but carry the full emotion of what life really means for mothers affected by war – on all sides.

Their stories can help activists in many ways; reinforcing in a vivid way the human reasons behind activism, providing voices to back up bare statistics and to help in building movements through breaking down barriers. This book is an appeal to mothers around the world to share their common motherhood, to have a voice.

Chapter 8 (“Where do we go from here”), along with the references and websites cited, gives the reader ample opportunity to put the information in the book to use, whilst the final chapter (“Just the facts”) provides masses of startling and thought-provoking evidence of how futile, and costly, war really is.

Some may criticise this book for being too sentimental, but that is the point: these women don’t have these opinions because they are pushing a certain political viewpoint, but because they know directly that war and terror in whatever form causes anger, grief, loss and sadness and they are determined to voice that in the hope of bringing some sanity, and peace, into their lives.

See more of: Review