Elderly mother Rosalie Baxter sits by herself in the study of her daughter’s home, alone with her thoughts after Christmas dinner, listening to her favorite Barbra Streisand record, “The Way We Were,” quietly recalling her experience of young love. In 1944, at the age of 20, she finished nursing school and was selected to help work on a secret government project along with other women her age. Much to her disappointment, it involved turning knobs and watching a dial for hours at a time, not nearly as exciting as she had hoped. Looking back, she now knows that she was involved in the Manhattan project, assisting with research for the atomic bomb. After long weeks of monotonous work, she and her friends eagerly anticipated the dances with the Army men training at the base nearby, where Rosalie met, for a night and a perfect day, the love of her life, Capt. Sam West. The story describes their brief but passionate romance, their parting, and the extensive history surrounding both of their lives before and after their encounter. Lamacki’s novel limns the complexities of life during World War II and the effects the war had on the characters’ lives. His prose contains small, personal experiences to breathe life into history: “[Rosalie] was told not to wear anything metallic and only tennis shoes….[Her] hairpins had all been pulled out by the immense magnetic field caused by the calutron, which they later learned was the technical name for the racetrack.” Sam and Rosalie are round, rich characters. Their quippy flirting is weighted by the anxiety of war, which constantly reminds them that their lives are fleeting: “She would not allow this sadness to defeat the ethereal joy, but as great as everything was, they would eventually succumb, and their time together would be limited—and then what? She wouldn’t let her thoughts sink this low, and she grabbed Sam, covering him with kisses all over his body.”
A heated love story intertwined with the tragedy of war, recommended for any fan of historical fiction.