Hall (Ambrose Bierce and the Ace of Shoots, 2005, etc.) convincingly and vividly evokes war’s sudden shattering of normalcy and a young man’s subsequent struggle to fit some of the pieces back together.
Payton Daltrey feels lost, a condition shared in some degree by virtually everyone he knows. The reason is the dismaying, disorienting war, of course, the war that renders all the solid old verities alarmingly porous. On top of that, San Diego State student Payton, a would-be writer with a sheaf of rejections from Black Mask magazine, is head-over-heels in love. The first time Payton notices Barbara (Bonny) Bonington, they’re both in the Caff, San Diego State’s eating-and-meeting place, listening to the radio “pouring out its deep-voiced horrors” on the day after Pearl Harbor. She’s someone else’s girlfriend, a fact that will complicate both their lives in ways neither of them can foresee, but the inconvenient Johnny Pierce is hardly the only obstacle to their growing attraction. Bonny is rich, while Payton holds two jobs in order to subsist. Her family views him as poor suitor material for another reason: All the Bonington men are doctors, all the Bonington women marry doctors, and no Bonington sees in Payton any reason to break with tradition. Parental pressure mounts, taking forms too subtle and insidious for the young, inexperienced lovers to defy. They go separate ways and eventually lose touch. Payton is ensnared first by the war, then by life; it’s a long time before he and Bonny meet again. When they do, however, readers will discover a surprising link that has kept them inextricably connected.
Old-fashioned storytelling by a peerless old pro for those who’ve half-forgotten why they love novels.