What would happen if a postmistress chose not to deliver the mail?
It is 1940. While the war is raging in Europe, President Roosevelt promises he won't send American boys over to fight.
Iris James is the postmistress of Franklin, Massachusetts a small town at the end of Cape Cod. She firmly believes her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, to pass along the news of love and sorrow that letters carry. Faithfully she stamps and sends the letters between people such as the newlyweds Emma and Will Fitch, who has gone to London to help out during the Blitz. But one day she slips a letter into her pocket, and leaves it there.
Meanwhile, seemingly fearless radio gal, Frankie Bard is reporting the Blitz from London, her dispatches crinkling across the Atlantic, imploring listeners to pay attention. Then in the last desperate days of the summer of 1941, she rides the trains out of Germany, reporting on what is happening to the refugees there.
Alternating between an America on the eve of entering into World War II, still safe and snug in its inability to grasp the danger at hand, an a Europe being torn apart by war, the two stories collide in a letter, bringing the war finally home to Franklin.
I wanted to love this story. The premise sounded engrossing, the cover is gorgeous and advance reviews offer nothing but praise. The story for me, however, fell short of whatever expectation I had. Was it tragic? Yes. Was it engrossing? To a point. Was it something I can recommend? Only with reservations.
The perspective is fascinating: a postmaster, especially in the mid 20th century, really could have his or her pulse on the entire community. And, in small-town America, people really did look out for each other.
Frankie's perspective was intriguing: a war-time viewpoint first from blitzed-out London and then from France among the displaced Jews. The American perspective of the war was accurate: World War 2 started several years before America finally got involved, but from our viewpoint, it all really got started in 1941.
All the pieces for a great story are here, but those pieces don't quite all fit together. It was a slow starter for me and one that ultimately tried too hard to be something special.
Mild profanity, although one could say it was accurate to the wartime situations.
Thanks to Lydia Hirt of G.P. Putnam's Sons/Riverhead for the opportunity to review this book. You can learn more about Sarah Blake here. You can purchase your own copy here.