Two women cross paths during the Vietnam War, with their actions still reverberating 30 years later.
Novelist Florence (Jaybird’s Song, 2017) tells her tale through the alternating perspectives of three characters. In the 1970s, Mandy Rooks is living on an Army base while her husband is stationed in Vietnam. She is befriended by a woman named Ginger, whose husband is also fighting overseas. After Ginger has a one-night stand with Mandy’s brother, the two women seem irrevocably bonded. Then there is Rachel McCarthy, who is first introduced as she storms out of an office building in Atlanta in 1998. She has just quit her job at a dot-com startup. Reeling from her decision to resign, Rachel wanders into a fortuneteller’s den. Skeptical that anything the great Madam Sylvia will say is worth the money, she nonetheless submits to a tarot reading. The clairvoyant interprets various cards for her client, the most notable being the Three of Cups, which she says indicates there are three important women in Rachel’s life. Rachel can think of only her grandmother, Oodles, with whom she has a strong connection. She has a strained relationship with her mother, who lives across the country, and Rachel feels that the seer must be missing the mark. Though Rachel tries to forget the reading, clues have been spoon-fed to readers, indicating that Ginger and Mandy are the other important women referenced by the tarot card. The question that remains is how their lives relate to Rachel’s. Told through an accessible prose, this enjoyable tale is full of details about the early ’70s and late ’90s that feel true and informative about each era. The story is especially strong as it relates the difficulties faced by Army wives when their husbands disappear for months and years to fight a seemingly unending war. The descriptions of Army bases, cliquey military social circles, and the loneliness of single parenting are especially vivid. Although the novel’s “surprise” ending can be predicted many chapters before the facts are revealed, the tale is sufficiently entertaining that readers will likely put up with the lack of guesswork.
A charming story about rediscovering connections, well-suited for readers who believe in destiny.