Wife of Navy Seal Chris Kyle tells her story on life and loss in new book

May 11, 2015

Taya Kyle is ready to tell the rest of the story.

The North Texas-based widow of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL who became a household name because of the book and movie, "American Sniper," is sharing her memories of life with and without her husband of 10 years.

"American Wife: A Memoir of Love, War, Faith and Renewal," published by William Morrow, was written with Jim DeFelice, who co-authored Chris Kyleís "American Sniper" autobiography, which was a 2012 bestseller and inspired the blockbuster 2014 movie starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.

After Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were murdered at an Erath County gun range in February 2013, Taya went through a difficult grieving and healing process that is still ongoing. (The gunman, Eddie Ray Routh, was convicted of capital murder by a Stephenville jury in February.)

She ultimately felt compelled to write her story of life with Chris.

While he was widely known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, with 160 confirmed kills, Taya experienced "so many more layers to him" beyond that of celebrated soldier, she says.

"There was so much to love about him," she says. "I wanted to do something to let people know the other sides of him that were equally great."

Another powerful motivation to write "American Wife" was Tayaís hope that the book might comfort others like her who are coping with devastating loss.

"It might be healing for some readers to know that theyíre not alone," Taya says. "Even if the book helps only one person in that way, then itís worth it."

We chatted with Taya Kyle, a Midlothian resident, last week about the book, which is almost certain to become a bestseller in its own right.


Q: You write that, when asked if working on his memoirs helped heal him after his haunting Iraq War experiences, Chris would say no. You reveal that, if anything, it "reopened old wounds, maybe including some Chris didnít even realize he had." But did your book help you heal?

A: I agree with Chris that his book didnít help at first. Writing it was hard. Only later, like every time we did a book signing, when people kept coming up and saying how much the book meant to them and how it helped them in some way, only then did it help him. Because he saw that people could be blessed by it.

For me, with this book, it was a little bit different. Yes, it was hard, but it also allowed me to put things down on paper. No longer would I have to try to remember every single detail of our lives together.

In that way, I could feel a weight lifting, knowing that now these memories can be preserved forever, not just for me but also for our kids.

Q: Do you think itís necessary for someone to have read American Sniper and/or seen the movie to follow and enjoy American Wife?

A: I donít think thatís necessary, because there are aspects of our story that are universal. Itís everybodyís story in some way or another. Itís every veteranís story. Itís every married coupleís story.

I think one of the main reasons Chrisí book connected with so many people is that itís real and relatable. Itís not picture perfect. It hasnít been airbrushed. Itís just raw.

I think thatís why people responded the way they did. The tagline with this book is "Love, Faith, War and Renewal." In some form or fashion, we all have those components in our lives.

Q: How important was it to you that you wrote the book with Jim DeFelice, someone who had had a productive working relationship with Chris?

A: It was hugely important. It was almost a deal breaker on whether I would do it or not. Because he knew Chris and me together. I felt like that was important to have somebody who already felt like family.

When youíre telling your life story, itís essential to have somebody you trust. So to have him was vitally important while going through so many personal and painful and important moments in our lives.

Q: You write in the book about fame and how surreal it was when Chris became famous. Are you prepared for how much more famous you probably will be as a result of this book?

A: If thereís one thing that this journey has taught me, itís that weíre all still people at the end of the day. Some aspects of my life might change, but who I am, hopefully, will never change.

My friends are the same. My family is the same. Maybe I can use whatever celebrity status I have to do some good with it. Other than that, hopefully, it will never be any different for me.

A: Is there any chance there could be a movie based on "American Wife"?

Weíve gotten some calls on that already, which is interesting. Itís something I never expected. I donít know if anything like that will happen. Itís one thing for people to talk about making a movie. Actually getting it made is a whole different animal.

If thereís enough interest or if people think thereís a need, we will certainly look into it. But I definitely donít have any expectation of it.

Q: In the book, you list dozens of life lessons from the past two years. They range from common-sense maxims ("Celebrate every wedding anniversary") to humorous observations ("Donít expect a miniature pig to be an easy pet") to heavy thoughts ("PTS is not an excuse for murder").

But will you expand on one in particular? The one where you say, "Donít be afraid to ask about a loved one who has passed." Did people often treat you with kid gloves and go overboard in NOT talking about Chris after his death?

A: Iíve been in both sides of that conversation. I have been with widows or family members or friends who have lost somebody and I know that awkward feeling you have because you want to do whatís right and you donít want to upset someone who is in pain, so you donít say anything at all.

But Iíve found, not just from my own experience but also from talking to people who have lost someone, most of us will tell you itís OK to ask about them. So take it from me. Itís OK to ask about the person whoís gone. You donít have to be afraid to say something.

Q: You (an Oregon native) moved to North Texas years ago because it was Chrisí home. What keeps you here?

A: Texas is the first place Iíve ever lived where I truly felt at home. I just really love it here. Itís the people, itís the atmosphere, itís the land. Itís just a beautiful place to be.

I heard a great quote once from a military person. She said she cried when she found out she was being stationed in Texas and later she cried when she found out she had to leave. I thought, "Thatís perfect!"

Texas gets in your blood. Itís just a good place.

Q: Healing and recovery being an ongoing thing, are you in a different place today from when you actually finished writing the book?

A: Itís still a process. I am continuing to heal and I am continuing to find my way. Some things have changed. I donít have all the answers. But this is going to be a long journey. Itís a marathon, not a sprint.



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