A debut drama, set before and during World War II, which explores the distinction between friend and foe.
Mack McInnis meets Inga Kaufener in Florida in 1933, when they’re both 10 years old, and their friendship blossoms into romance in their senior year of high school. Inga’s German family had moved to America to escape the consequences of Hitler’s rise to power, but as the possibility of war between Germany and the United States becomes increasingly likely, she encounters scorn and distrust from her peers. In 1941, when American involvement in the war seems inevitable, Inga’s father, Juergen, discovers that he’s suspected of being a German spy. He decides to move his family back to their homeland in order to ensure their safety. In Inga’s absence, heartsick Mack listlessly sleepwalks through his college experience, finally dropping out to retreat to a cabin in the woods and suffer in solitude. When he’s drafted, he insists on not fighting Germans, but because he has experience piloting crop dusters, he’s assigned to a B-17 that’s tasked with bombing German sites—including Weimar, where he knows that Inga currently lives. Meanwhile, Inga realizes that she’s pregnant with Mack’s child and marries a local boy in order to save her family from dishonor. Even though her brother was conscripted to fight in the German military, she secretly works for the resistance movement opposing Adolf Hitler. Author McClelland deftly follows several characters whose lives are involuntarily turned upside down by war and who are compelled to fight. He provocatively raises profound questions about how one defines and compartmentalizes allies and enemies and the ways in which duty forces one to make difficult decisions. For such a short novel, however, there are too many parallel subplots; for example, Mack’s father’s battle with lung cancer is a needless digression that doesn’t do anything to illuminate the story’s main themes. Still, McClelland’s unembellished prose is confident and self-assured throughout, and the subject matter is as philosophically challenging as it is emotionally poignant.
A sharp, moving reflection on how love can survive even the greatest trials.