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Monday, September 12, 2011

Next to Love

Next to Love

Ellen Feldman
Spiegel & Grau, 2011

Babe, Grace, and Millie have been best friends since grade school. Now that they are adults, they are bound together by the war and the fact that one husband and two boyfriends have enlisted. Grace has a daughter and doesn’t understand why her husband would voluntarily put his life in danger. Babe is so much in love with her fiancĂ© that she travels to his base to marry him before he ships overseas. Millie does the same, and now all three are anxiously waiting for news of their husbands while negotiating the changing social upheavals that war brings to a small town.

When the war is over, only one of the husbands returns, a changed, haunted man. The women bond together to help each other cope with their grief amid a daily life that includes racism, sexism, and hidden pain and suffering. As each woman tries to get through the days the best they can, one woman can’t get past her grief and finds herself in a marriage without passion, while another struggles to maintain normalcy despite her husband suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. The third woman, meanwhile, refuses to acknowledge the past and her son grows up not knowing his father, which greatly impacts his later life.

This thoughtful historical novel shows the significance and impact that World War II had on the women who stayed behind, waiting, working and wondering how their men were doing so far away from home. But even more importantly, this story shows the aftermath of war both on the men who survived and the families left behind. The friendship of the three women rings true and demonstrates the power of unconditional acceptance and full support that so many women can offer each other.


Other novels by this author:
Too Close for Comfort (1994)
Rearview Mirror (1996)
God Bless the Child (1998)
Lucy (2003)
The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank (2005)
Scottsboro (2008)

Other titles you may enjoy:

When the Emperor was Divine by Julie Otsuka (2002)
A story told from 5 different points of view, chronicles the experiences of Japanese Americans caught up in the nightmare of the World War II internment camps.

The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard (2003)
In the aftermath of World War II, young men and women living in Europe and Asia reconstruct their lives, including a soldier who learns that material goods and success are not enough, and a woman in Japan who tends to her dying brother.

Echoes by Danielle Steel (2004)
On the shores of Lake Geneva in 1915, the Jewish beauty Beata Wittgenstein falls in love with a Catholic French officer and marries him despite the wishes of her family, but when Hitler's terror arrives, Beata has to undertake a harrowing journey of survival.

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