Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

Have you ever heard of Gold Star Mothers?  They are women who have a lost a child in service to our country.  This story is set in the 1930's and is about a group of women who are traveling to France to see their boy's graves.

Alfred A Knopf sent me an ARC of this book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

It begins in Deer Isle, Maine, in 1931.  Cora Blake is doing what she must to keep some food on the table.  She works at the library for free but she works at the cannery to feed her family.  The two girls are her sister's but she's passed on.  Everybody has their own job to keep them warm and have some food.  When she gets a letter telling her she has been approved for a trip to France to see the graveyard where her son was buried, she's elated.  Getting out of the cannery is a joy and it will be the trip of a lifetime for her.  She's excited!

This is a fictional account, but it has the ring of truth.  The women involved are from all walks of life and have different views of their sons.  There is no doubt all of them want to visit the graves and make their peace with the boys who never came home.  What I found most disturbing and most truthful was that a black woman had the same last name as a white woman and when she was found in the white women's hotel, she was quickly moved to Harlem.  Segregation still existed.  One of the military personnel gets blamed for a woman's death that she wasn't responsible for.  Don't bother me with the truth, we're going to make sure this doesn't make the military look bad.

You have the very rich, the very poor, a poor woman who has mental problems, and those who just want to get the visit over with and go home.  When you add in the fact that none of them speak French, it makes the tour that much more interesting.

None of those who go on this tour come home without being changed.  Some for the better, some for the worst.  Trips like the one in this story do influence you.  It's always nice to go home again.

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