An emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel set in the 1930s about five American women-Gold Star Mothers-who travel to France to visit the graves of their World War I soldier sons: a pilgrimage that will change their lives in unforeseeable and indelible ways.
The women meet for the first time just before their journey begins: Katie, an Irish maid from Dorchester, Massachusetts; Minnie, wife of an immigrant Russian Jewish chicken farmer; Bobbie, a wealthy Boston socialite; Wilhelmina, a former tennis star in precarious mental health; and Cora Blake, a single mother and librarian from coastal Maine. In Paris, Cora meets a journalist whose drug habit helps him hide from his own wartime fate-facial wounds so grievous he's forced to wear a metal mask. This man will change Cora's life in wholly unexpected ways. And when the women finally travel to Verdun to visit the battlegrounds where their sons fought as well as the cemeteries where they are buried, shocking events-a death, a scandal, a secret revealed-will guarantee that Cora's life and those of her traveling companions will become inextricably intertwined. Only now will they be able to emerge from their grief and return home to their loved ones. This is a timeless story set against a footnote of history: little known but unforgettable.
Hardcover, 352 pagesExpected publication: January 14th 2014 by Knopf
I received this ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication is January 14th 2014.
I was interested in this story due to the fact that it was written about the aftermath of WWI. While much has been written about WWII I found that there is less so about the first great war. This read while fiction taught me about a piece of history that I was unaware of in the Gold Star Mothers. Upon completion of the book I took the opportunity to do some research on the topic to educate myself further on this piece of history. That is always a good sign that a book has drawn me in if I want to find out more about the historical aspects of a storyline. This was perhaps the most compelling part of the read for me and the basis of my rating.
I found that the character's and storyline was well written. Although centered around Cora's pilgrimage the supporting cast was well detailed and each could have been deserving of their own storyline/novel. This story was about grief and loss and learning to move on so it was not a cheery read. That being said it was never dull or too depressing. It was in fact moving in the way that Cora and the other mothers grew during their journey. I also found that it kept the story realistic as travelling across seas to a foreign country to visit the grave of your son who died during war would be a daunting task. I did find Cora's outlook on life refreshing as she accepted everyone for who they were and saw people beyond racial and religious lines.
I truly enjoyed this read and it stuck with me after I read the last page. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Smith is a new author to me however I will be interested to read her other works. I am glad I discovered this read.