"I'll Be Seeing You" by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
First published in 2013
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
I have snail mail on the brain after participating in A Month of Letters in February, so it seemed like the perfect time to finally read the epistolary novel "I'll Be Seeing You," which has been on my TBR list for many months!
I had high hopes going into this WWII story -- the cover pulled me in, I love mail and was intrigued by the novel-in-letters format, and I enjoy historical fiction. "I'll Be Seeing You" more than met my expectations -- I found it to be a delightful, easy and engrossing read.
War wives Glory of Rockport, Massachussetts, and Rita of Iowa City, Iowa, start off as strangers thrown together through a women's 4-H pen pal match-up, but their relationship quickly grows into so much more.
Glory is a young mother of two whose husband Robert is in training before shipping off overseas. And both the men in Rita's life are fighting in the war -- her beloved husband Sal and their son Toby. Glory and Rita unite over their sadness, hope and love for their families, and soon they are the best of friends, more like sisters than pen pals who've never met. Glory and Rita lend each other advice, support, ration-friendly recipes, love, and understanding as they worry over their husbands, deal with their crotchety neighbors and navigate other life issues, big and small. There are times when a letter from the other is all that keeps our characters afloat; they become rocks of stability for each other in the murky, turbulent sea of uncertainty that is having a husband fighting in a war on the other side of the world.
I absolutely loved that the novel was written entirely in letters, mostly between our two women but with some V-Mail to their soldiers and other correspondence thrown in. Glory and Rita had completely separate voices and their individual personalities (or those of the two authors?) really shone through. Rita is older and wiser, full of a natural confidence and spunk -- the type of woman we all aspire to be; Glory is a young woman who has a heart overflowing with love, all the while conflicted and trying to find herself and her calling.
"I'll Be Seeing You" was a pleasure to read. It was a fascinating look at what it was like for those -- of both sexes -- left behind while all the able-bodied men went off to fight in Europe and the Pacific. The bonds, friendship and love woven through letters was so touching and heartwarming, and I like to think some real-life women were lucky enough to find each other this way.