A writer shares a collection of letters from a lonely black American soldier to his wife during World War II.
After both her parents died, debut author Kane found a stash of more than 200 letters exchanged between her father and mother from 1943 to 1945, a stretch of time during which they were separated by war. Phil Kane enlisted in the Army in 1941—the same year he wed Jacqueline Jones—and as a result, the two were largely apart for the first four years of their marriage. Phil, “Happy Feet” as his family affectionately called him, adored his wife and struggled with solitude in her absence, a sentiment he earnestly recorded often in his letters and in a poem he wrote for “Jack.” The bulk of the epistolary exchange cataloged in the book is Phil’s letters to Jack as well as some diary entries she made. Phil’s correspondence is unabashedly romantic and swerves from swooning feelings of love and commitment to frequent confessions that he is “lonesome and a little dejected” by the distance between him and his new bride: “Jackie, I know you are wondering why I am writing you as I am, but you see, I am a crazy guy. You know that, don’t you? But as I said before, I am crazy about you! Yes, you, darling.” The author also includes many black-and-white family photographs as well as facsimiles of sentimentally significant documents and newspaper clippings. The sweetly insistent declarations of Phil’s romantic ardor are a pleasure to read and, as a whole, provide a portal into an important historical element of the war: the sacrifices made not only by soldiers, but also by their wives and families. But the letters are more tender than dramatic or deeply introspective and, for the most part, cover the quotidian aspects of daily life: family relations, movies, work, and finances. As a result, the correspondence will mostly interest those familiar with Jack and Phil, especially their descendants.
A touching epistolary record.