Next to Love

Spiegel & Grau. Jul. 2011. c.291p. ISBN 9780812992717. $25. F
OrangeReviewStarNo one knows how hard war can hit a small town better than Bernadette (Babe) Huggins, operator of the Western Union office in South Downs, MA. As the book opens, on a particular day in July 1944, wires from the War Office leave a trail of destruction across her hometown. Babe and her girlfriends Grace and Millie give us the female perspective on this war. In 1942, Babe and Millie had followed their men down to camp in North Carolina, where their nuptials took place, and now all three women are in the thick of marriage and the concomitant worry as their husbands are off to fight in Europe. Their stories move through the final days of the war, with only one of the men returning, and onward, encompassing children (and the lack thereof), breakdowns, sexuality, second marriages, racism, anti-Semitism, and self-identity.
VERDICT War is hell, as are the depictions presented mostly through the letters these soldiers write home. Feldman's (Scottsboro) scathing prose intensifies the daily routines of these families and makes readers fearful and worried along with them. Yet life does go on, for better or worse. A lustrous evocation of a stormy period in our past; highly recommended for lovers of World War II fiction. [Library marketing; online reading group guide.]
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