A World War II sailor conducts a romance with his high school sweetheart through letters.
Roy “Chunky” Harrison asks his sister’s best friend, and his fishing companion, to the high school prom, and to his delight she says yes. Not long after, he hears the horrifying news on the radio of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and he knows that means he will soon go off to war. A week later, he’s in boot camp, and starts to detail the whole process of becoming a sailor in the Navy. Roy’s assigned to the USS North Carolina, which is sent into the Pacific to protect American assets, and eventually battle the Japanese. Roy quickly grasps the grim reality of war, the constant peril, and the prospect of dying in a distant land. He’s not at liberty to tell Evelyn much about his work or location, and so the letters largely cover the mundane and the quotidian, and his swelling love for her. In 1943, he proposes marriage and she accepts, and they plan a life together while he fights overseas. Meanwhile, he keeps an illicit journal where he records his anxieties with unfettered candor, and those entries collectively amount to a parallel story. Eventually, Roy visits home and sees Evelyn in 1944, but this respite can’t erase the memory of war from his restless mind: “Even with her laying next to me and breathing soft with all those red curls spread across her pillow and mine, I been having trouble sleeping.” Roy’s letters and journal entries constitute the entire novel—readers only learn of Evelyn’s life by virtue of the sailor’s responses to her letters. She endures her own travails at home, communicated through Roy’s experience of them. Inspired by real wartime letters, debut author Ramsey intelligently captures both sides of a blossoming romance through a single perspective. The letters can be somewhat tediously concerned with everyday affairs, and Roy is sweet but not introspective enough for his interpretations of his situation to be consistently intriguing. Despite the historical setting, this is primarily a love story, and a study in the way a connection between two people can deepen even amid prolonged absence.
A touching, if simple, tale of love and war.