A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
This story is set in the 1930s, and follows the journey of five mothers of soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice in WWI. The ladies are part of a larger group of women, known as Gold Star Mothers, traveling from New York City to France to visit the graves of their soldier sons. Their pilgrimage is filled with the things you would expect when five unknown women unite over loss – equal parts laughter, drama, and tears.
The novel begins by introducing the mothers, and progresses through their first impressions, and the idiosyncrasies that become apparent as they travel together.
Cora, a single mother and librarian lives in Maine, where she is raising her three orphaned nieces
Genevieve, a Boston socialite, who prefers to be called Bobbie
Katie, an Irish maid from Massachusetts with a bit of an attitude
Minnie, the wife of an immigrant Russian-Jewish chicken farmer
Mrs. Russell, an African-American woman, assigned to Party A by “mistake”, is replaced by the other Mrs. Russell, who is white and a former tennis star with questionable mental stability.
Cora is the member coordinator of the five mothers in Party A, which also includes two government escorts, Second Lt. Thomas Hammond and nurse Lily Barnett. By the time Party A reaches the battlegrounds and cemeteries at Verdun, there are spats, scandals, and even a death. Add a drug addicted, war-injured journalist after the story of his life, and a life-changing romantic secret to the mix, and you have a war novel that is anything but morose.
Fans of April Smith’s FBI Special Agent Ana Grey mystery series will be surprised by this departure from her usual novels. The characters and events are fictional; however the story was inspired by the diary of a West Point graduate, whose first post-graduation assignment was to accompany Gold Star Mothers to France. The experience changed the course of his career from military commander to diplomat.
I liked how the pace of this book was comfortable as the mothers sail across the ocean, but picks up in intensity as they get closer and closer to their final destination. I was also very interested in the historical aspect, as I was not familiar with the Gold Star Mothers, or the details provided about WWI.
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