Saturday, March 3, 2018

Book Review: 'Love Letters Home' by Chapman Deering

Massachusetts author Chapman Deering Has published tow books to date – MIDLIFE CRISIS SURVIVAL GUIDE and now LOVE LETTERS HOME: LOVE IN A TIME OF WAR 1942-1945. Her main interests are in mystery, history and romance.

The Introduction offers a fine map of where the story began and what is to follow: ‘It was at least fifteen years ago when she found a cache of letters hidden in the attic of her family home. Her mother had died and her father was moving into assisted living. Everything in the house had to go and the box of old envelopes was just one more thing to toss into the rubbish. Just more paper for the recycle bin, she thought. But then, just by chance, one of the letters escaped the box, slipped from its envelope and landed on the old wood floor in front of her. Her father’s handwriting was still clear. The letters were private but she couldn’t help herself as she started to read. She had stumbled upon a real treasure trove: love letters from a soldier sent home to the woman he had left behind. She couldn’t just toss them out. They were worth preserving. It took her nearly three years to read and transcribe the more than 400 pieces of correspondence: Airmail letters, VMail, telegrams, yellowing lined pages—each in its original envelope and neatly organized according to the date received. The box contained one side of a nearly four year correspondence. All the letters she found were written by her father to her mother, during World War II — the war years of 1942 - 1945. Unfortunately, due to constant reassignments, and limited space, her father had not saved any of the letters her mother sent to him. They had been discarded before he returned home at the end of the war. . . . She had to imagine her mother’s side of the conversation.’

Chapman understands this romance and writes in the verbiage of the 40s. ‘Jim's first letter, written from Fort Devens, arrived the day after he had been inducted. Ruth still carried it in her satchel, but she found it difficult to read. He left without saying goodbye. His family had called her to say he had left and that was that. He was off on the great adventure of his life and she could not help but feel abandoned. Monday, February 9, 1942 - Dear Ruth, Please excuse this ruled paper. It is all I could get (borrow) in the barracks. We have been ordered not to leave the building. I passed the exam. The last man to examine me was a French doctor. He was swell. He told me I was a good specimen. I was surprised myself.
We were shipped to Devens at 12:30 and arrived here in the pouring rain.‘

The provided synopsis offers the plot – ‘Separated by war. Surrounded by conflict. Would their love endure? After Japan dropped its bombs on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Ruth LeBlanc’s secure little world evaporated. The love of her life disappeared into battle and all the familiar comforts of home were slowly taken away. As the war spread like a cancer across the face of Europe, Africa and the Pacific, letters became the only uncertain bridge between her and the man she had promised to marry. With the war stretching on into an unknown future, would she have the courage to wait for him or give in to the temptation to begin a new life with an old flame? “Love Letters Home” is an historical romance set in New England during the years of World War II. Using the actual letters of an Army Air Force soldier serving overseas, the novel reveals what the war years were really like for both a lonely soldier serving his country and the woman he left behind. This revealing historical romance explores the hidden textures of the heart in a time of turmoil. Combining well researched historical details with the dozens of letters sent from a soldier at war to the woman he loved, the story explores the tumultuous years of sacrifice and heartbreak experienced by so many during World War II.’

And so begins the exchange of letters between Ruth, a commercial artist, and her favored man Jim, and enlisted soldier off to war after training in Mississippi’s Air Corps Technical School. Chapman knows how to balance the letter exchange with the facts of living in America during the war – the strain, fear of loss, anxiety – all comes through in the narrative portion. What Chapman has succeeded in offering is a very fine timeline of the events leading up to WW II, the facts of WW II, and the manner in which the war alters soldiers upon returning home. Ruth and Jim marry in 1946, but the long awaited marriage is a series of compromises, not the hoped for perfect life each had dreamed. The fact that the story ends with a realistic note makes this book an even finer work than what could have easily been a sanguine wartime romance. Brava! Grady Harp, February 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.