Almost Home | Book Review
What says "southern" to you? Is it magnolia blossoms, sweet tea, rocking chairs on porches, warm friendships, or hospitality, by any chance? If so, you're in luck when it comes to this novel ** by Valerie Fraser Luesse, best-selling author known for her award-winning stories and essays in Southern Living magazine, where she is senior travel editor.
The things that tear us apart can also bring us together.
With America's entrance into World War II, the town of Blackberry Springs, Alabama, has exploded virtually overnight. Workers from all over are coming south for jobs in Uncle Sam's munitions plants - and they're bringing their pasts with them, right into Dolly Chandler's grand but fading family home turned boardinghouse.
A struggling young couple from the Midwest, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower from Mississippi, and a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war are all hoping Dolly's house will help them find their way back to the lives they've left behind. But the house has a past of its own.
When tragedy strikes, Dolly's only hope will be the circle of friends under her roof and their ability to discover the truth about what happened to a young bride who lived there a century before.
This book feels like warm sunshine on a perfect afternoon. You can almost smell the honeysuckle and feel the breeze coming through the pines.
This was my first book by Valerie Luesse, and frankly, I loved it. She has a knack for dialogue that pulls you effortlessly into the story, and has mastered the art of description that made Dolly, Anna, Reed, and the other characters living on The Loop come to life.
The 1940s are pretty much my favorite time period. Stories set solely on the home front are rare - and ones set in the South, even more so. The incorporation of the munitions plants and the struggles that people faced was interesting and the historical details were authentic.
But if you think it's strictly a WWII story, think again. Reading about Catherine and her mysterious groom a hundred years before was intriguing. I enjoyed discovering how their love story fit into the journeys of the strangers-turned-friends who found home in Dolly's boarding house. But I won't say any more, lest I spoil the story. :)
And oh, yes, the romance. It was sweet and pure and based on the Biblical definition of sacrificial love, which earns a huge vote of approval here. I loved seeing how Anna and Jesse worked through hard times together, and the blossoming of friendship and love between another certain couple (won't give any spoilers) was perfect. (For my mom readers, I probably wouldn't hand it to a young teen, simply because some of these scenes were between young and very-much-in-love married couples.)
Okay, now for my only disclaimer.There were some "friendly ghosts" (implied by a chandelier tinkling or a door slipping ajar, for instance) and an appearance in a dream by a deceased person. Also some rather interesting prophetic encounters. Yep, my eyebrow went up while reading, and personally I think the story would have been fine without this subplot.
But here's the thing. I usually don't have anything to do with ghosts. (Like, at all. Ask my husband. :)) So believe me when I say it really didn't affect the rest of the story. It may sound odd, but somehow Valerie Luesse manages to make all of that seem light and inconsequential.
Overall, a fantastic WWII tale that made me smile, with characters that stayed with me after the last page. I give it 5 stars. (If you couldn't tell.)
"Leaves are at the mercy of the current, Anna, but you and Jesse are not. You can choose whether to travel together or let the rocks divide you. That's a decision you must make together. Otherwise you could land on opposite sides of the river."
P.S. I embroidered this bluebird a few years ago - good old-fashioned #embroidery is one of the few handcrafts I enjoy (translation: that I can actually do.) Does anyone else do embroidery or cross-stitching? What crafts do you enjoy?
P.P.S. Oh, and thank you to Renee´ for making that beautiful #quilt for us!
*I received a copy of this book from Revell Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.*
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