A touching tale of young love during wartime.

LETTER FROM BELLEAU WOOD

A group of young people grow up in the shadow of World War I in this historical novel.

This seventh book in Cheatham’s Covington Chronicles focuses primarily on four characters: a young woman named Trudy; her first love, Jeremy; her brother, Will; and his friend Lance.In a series of interconnected vignettes, the author explores this quartet’s coming-of-age during a tumultuous time. Trudy and Jeremy are childhood sweethearts “as close as ribbon cane syrup and pancakes,” but distance strains their romance when they both leave their small Mississippi town to attend college. Will’s roommate, Lance, captures Trudy’s heart, and with the Great War looming, a quick, secret wedding ceremony is arranged. Lance and Will head to the front in France, and Jeremy follows as a war correspondent (he can’t enlist, due to a heart murmur). The boys contend with the horrors of the conflict, which they relate in letters home in as much detail as the censors allow. Meanwhile, Trudy contends with her own challenges at home, including an unexpected pregnancy and the ravages of an influenza pandemic. Cheatham’s novel moves along briskly as she chronicles the tough choices that her protagonists face as well as their moments of joy. Real historical events such as the Battle of Belleau Wood are incorporated into the story; Gen. John J. Pershing even makes an appearance, taking Jeremy under his wing and sharing pithy wisdom on life and love: “If you love her, tell her how you feel,” he advises the ambitious reporter. Although the dilemmas faced by Trudy and company are specific to their time in history, the emotions involved are universal, from Trudy’s fear and shame when she discovers her pregnancy to Jeremy’s worry that he’s blown his chance with the woman he loves. Less realistic is the anachronistic behavior of some characters, such as Trudy’s parents’ unfazed reaction to the news of her secret marriage and pregnancy, which hardly seems typical for 1918.

A touching tale of young love during wartime.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Southeast Media Productions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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