Author: Valerie Fraser Luesse
Publication Date: 05 March 2019
Genre: Adult – Historical Fiction
Publisher: Revell books
With America’s entrance into
the Second World War, 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.
An estranged young couple from the Midwest, unemployed professors from Chicago, a widower from Mississippi, a shattered young veteran struggling to heal from the war–they’re all hoping Dolly’s house will help them find their way back to the lives they 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.
Award-winning and bestselling author Valerie Fraser Luesse breathes life into a cast of unforgettable characters in this complex and compassionate story of hurt and healing.
The story takes place in 1940s Blackberry Springs, Alabama where Dolly and Si Chandler operate a boarding house, which was Dolly’s childhood home. Blackberry Springs has gone from a rural town that no one has heard of to being chocked full of outsiders looking to profit from working in the weapons industry.
This book was split into three different portions, but its entirety focused on exploring the relationships of the people that came into the lives of Dolly and Si as well as discovering the truth about the house that has been in Dolly’s family for generations.
The first part of the book mainly focused on Anna and Jesse, from the Midwest, who are suffering from marital problems. Jesse is distant with Anna, which Anna constantly attributes to what he has dealt with from his past, but it’s never explicitly addressed. For two people who are married, they act as if they are complete strangers. Naturally, Dolly and Si feel an obligation to save these two by creating situations where they can remember how they fell in love.
Of the guests that we meet in the first part of the book, the worst guests are hands down the Clanahans from Reno, NV. They are both self-centered and lack all respect for traditions of the south. One of my favorite scenes from the book was when Si demanded the Clanahans leave after Mrs. Clanahan insulted Dolly’s strawberry pie, but Mr. Clanahan refused. Si proceeded to grab his shotgun and shoot the chair Mr. Clanahan sat in. I was definitely not expecting that. Note to self: Don’t insult someone’s cooking!
During the first part of the book, we learn that the previous owners of the Chandler estate mysteriously disappeared, and that the town presumed them to be dead. Anna, Dolly, Daisy and Lillian stumble upon century old journals that start to give them clues to this mystery. This part of the plot actually pulled me in since I felt that it was the only sort of “action”.
The second part of the book focuses on Reed who is a veteran who has just returned from the war as well as Daisy, a widower who lost her husband Charlie to the war. This part of the book did not capture my attention as well as the first story line. I was still focused on figuring out what was going on with Anna and Jesse that I wasn’t as invested in Reed and Daisy as I should have been.
Overall, I liked this book. This was definitely a change of pace in terms of genres for me, but I welcomed the challenge. The writing is witty (Dolly and Si are hilarious). The characters grow together to forge meaningful lifelong friendships, and love is found anew in places where there seemed to be no hope.
Thank you to Bookish First and Revell books for an advanced copy of this book. This did not influence my review, and all opinions are my own.
Rating: 3 stars