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Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard [Hardcover]

Valerie Fortney
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Sept. 7 2010

I am sorry that the job that I do takes me away from you. I am sorrier still that sometimes I do stupid things and maybe put myself at risk. More, I wonder at the guys who follow my direction. I wonder about their families. I worry that I will hurt them, or cause my guys to be hurt?. Thank you for believing in me, my love?. I don’t think that I could do this without that. Especially when things are hard and the decisions are unpopular. Especially when it is scary. ?May 7, 2006

A week after she wrote these words to her husband, twenty-six-year-old Captain Nichola Goddard became the sixteenth Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan. She also earned herself a spot in the history books: the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat.

Goddard, say her friends and family, would have hated being singled out for her gender: she was as strong, as capable and as brave as any male in uniform. She was not just a soldier on equal footing with her fellow troops; she was a leader?a “sunray,“ in military parlance?in one of the most dangerous positions in the armed forces, a Forward Observation Officer with the artillery unit.

In Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard, award-winning journalist Valerie Fortney examines how a woman raised by self-described “left-wing hippies” came to find herself fighting?and dying?in Afghanistan. Based on in-depth interviews with Goddard’s family, friends, and colleagues, as well as exclusive access to never-before-seen letters, Sunray tells the story of a remarkable 21st-century soldier. It is an intriguing, heartbreaking, and ultimately inspiring look at the decision to serve, and at the costs.

Reviews:

“This important biography introduces the remarkable young woman who was a devoted soldier, wife, daughter and friend.... This book is required reading for anyone who questions the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, and not because it provides answers to that question.... Perhaps even more important, it is a fitting tribute to not only Goddard but also to Trooper Karine Blais, the second female Canadian soldier to die, and to the 150 Canadian men lost to the Afghan War as well.” - Winnipeg Free Press

“On May 17, 2006, Nichola Goddard became the first Canadian woman to die in combat. She’s more than just a statistic, however, and Sunray meticulously pieces together her biography-from her gobe-trotting childhood to her tour in Afghanistan- resulting in a thoughtful portrait of a truly modern soldier.” - Chatelaine

“The detail and research Fortney marshals renders the story universal, and reveals the difficult compromises that military life demands. This is not a book only for military enthusiasts or history buffs; it will reward any reader interested in the drama of a brave, inspiring life.” - Quill & Quire


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Product Description

Quill & Quire

On May 17, 2006, at approximately ­7 p.m.­ Afghanistan time, Forward Observation Officer Captain Nichola Goddard earned a tragic place in Canadian history: she became the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat. Although the media was predictably preoccupied with the death of a female soldier, Sunray takes a step back to profile the life of a woman who consistently defied the societally imposed constraints of her sex.

Eschewing tragic, one-note platitudes, the book honours a fearless young woman who grew into a resilient warrior. Regardless of a reader’s attitude toward the war in Afghanistan, this book provides a heartbreaking story of a hero who believed in her own convictions above the artificial limitations of her sex. Born to left-wing pacifists, Nichola was an unlikely soldier. However, she maintained a fierce loyalty to her own decision to pursue a military career, and remained courageous every step of the way.

From Sunray’s first pages it is evident that journalist Valerie Fortney is a skilled writer endeavouring to tell not a military story, but a human one. The book’s richly detailed narrative is culled from family archives and extensive interviews, and Fortney paints a vivid picture of Nichola’s unique, well-­travelled upbringing. No detail is spared: Fortney even journeys with the Goddard family to Papua New Guinea, where Nichola spent her early life, to interview the tribespeople who knew her as a girl. Nichola’s own correspondence is also incorporated into the book, further humanizing her and forestalling a pacifist reader’s impulse to pass judgment on her decision to enter military life.

The detail and research Fortney marshals renders the story universal, and reveals the difficult compromises that military life demands. This is not a book only for military enthusiasts or history buffs; it will reward any reader interested in the drama of a brave, inspiring life.

About the Author

Valerie Fortney is a veteran Canadian journalist with a successful career in broadcasting, magazines and newspapers. She was a regular contributor in the 1990s to the popular radio show Basic Black, and served as a frequent contributor for CBC Newsworld. Valerie’s feature writing has appeared across North America and around the world, in publications such as Chatalaine, The Los Angeles Times and Reader’s Digest International. In the 1990s, she was the founding editor of Avenue magazine, a Calgary magazine named Best New Magazine at the 1997 National Magazine Awards. The magazine won several other regional and national awards during her tenure. She has worked at the Calgary Herald since 1998. Valerie lives in Calgary, Alberta


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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sunray Sept. 10 2010
By Louise
Format:Hardcover
One of the marks of a great book for me is thinking 'It was much more than I expected'. That's what I felt after reading Valerie Fortney's Sunray: The Death and Life of Captain Nichola Goddard. Valerie has done a masterful job of bringing to print the in-depth background and variety of life experiences that shaped this complex, competent and caring Canadian soldier. Thank you Valerie for helping us all to get to know and understand this young woman in such an open, honest and compassionate way. You did a fantastic job of digging out and portraying the military and personal facts and feelings in this portrait of one of Canada's heros.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Canada's Daughter Aug. 27 2010
By ew
Format:Hardcover
This incredible story of a remarkable young Canadian circles around the globe beginning and ending in Papua New Guinea. From her birth to volunteer educators in the jungle, through her unorthodox upbringing covering most of Canada, her career choices that lead her to a place in history, and back to the celebration of her life through the Light Up The World Project in PNG, Val Fortney has done a superb job in showing the wonderful warm and real person behind the fatigues and machine gun of her DND picture. Nichola's eloquent letters to family and friends and the stories from her wide circle of comrades give a unique perspective to Canadas' role in Afghanistan. This compelling book brings laughter as well as tears and should be read by every Canadian (especially those who have ever thought Canadian history dull).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Shirley
Format:Hardcover
A wonderful story, made me appreciate what our Canadian soldiers are doing in Afghanistan. Valerie Fortney writes with compassion as well as understanding of the military life. A riveting Biography.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A hard-hitting biography highly recommended for any military or women's issues collection Jan. 20 2011
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
SUNRAY: THE DEATH AND LIFE OF CAPTAIN NICHOLA GODDARD tells of a woman who became the sixteenth Canadian soldier to die in Afghanistan, the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat. Goddard's story is examined by a journalist who considers how a woman raised by left-wing hippies came to fight and die in Afghanistan in a hard-hitting biography highly recommended for any military or women's issues collection.
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical Reading on Gender Equality and Canadian Soldiers in Afghanistan Dec 1 2013
By Michael McKean - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an extremely important and well written book. This should be required reading for anyone who claims to have any interest or knowledge of gender equality, and it provides an excellent insight into modern combat operations for helping professionals who are assisting serving soldiers or veterans deal with ongoing struggles.
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