I recently lost my grandfather, and at his funeral I saw an honor guard perform a military funeral for the first time. It was incredibly moving and a fitting tribute to his service during WWII. He was a Marine who fought in every single major battle in the Pacific except Guadalcanal.
So when I was choosing a book to review this week, I chose one that really brought home the early days of that war, when the Americans thought that staying out of conflict was the best plan and many believed that what was happening in Europe had nothing to do with the U.S. But it also shows how the Europeans were trying to cope on their own with the frightening reality of war, and how some Americans did what was right, rather than what was easiest.
Review: The Postmistress
by Sarah Blake
Iris James is the postmistress for the small town of Franklin, on the Massachusetts coast. Frankie Bard is an American working with Edward R. Murrow in London, broadcasting the war to the Americans who have yet to join it.
Iris and Frankie each deliver news, some of which others do not want to hear. They are across an ocean from each other, but they both believe that America must help the Europeans before it's too late. And they both are carrying secrets.
Iris learns more than she should about the townspeople because their whole lives pass through her hands. She watches everyone, but does nothing to intervene...until the day she slips a letter into her pocket instead of delivering it. Iris believes she did it for the right reasons, but did she?
Iris, like everyone in her small town, listens to Frankie on the radio, but she doesn't like her voice, "that undercurrent that always seemed to run through it that she held the truth in her hand and everyone better damn well take a look."
Frankie is a person who is known for her touch with the common man, and her knack for listening to others tell their stories. She crosses paths with Dr. Will Fitch, who has left Franklin to try to help after he hears one of Frankie's stories. They share a frightening evening in a subway station during the bombing of the city, and they argue about their reasons for being there. He thinks it's to be a part of real life and to be necessary to what's needed. But is he escaping from his own life? Frankie thinks they are there to fight and to force a change.
They leave the subway tunnel with the argument unresolved, and Will asks Frankie to mail a letter home to his wife, Emma. As Frankie watches him walk away, Will is hit by a cab and killed.
Her last conversation with Will spurs her to desperate acts, like heading straight to the action in France.
Frankie finds her true voice when she begins to ride a train across Europe and records the stories of Jewish families on board who are trying desperately to escape before the Nazis arrive. They are frantic to reconnect with their families and friends and see Frankie as their one chance. She feels it is her duty to record all the stories she can so that the ordinary and the everyday lives are remembered as being just as important as the famous and infamous.
She rides the train for two weeks, back and forth from France to Berlin, without a clear plan or purpose other than to record every thing she hears, every snippet of every life so it won't disappear and be forgotten, just as the war is being forgotten at home.
She realizes that she is collecting instead of reporting, and she is being battered by wave after wave of people and their voices. She returns exhausted to the U.S., heading for the coastal town of Franklin, where Emma still waits for a word from Will. Frankie begins to deliver her news, first of the Jews and their plight, then of the coming war, and finally the news that Emma does not want to hear. And Frankie's actions change Iris's resolve to deliver her own letter. (2010 - Penguin Group)
Recipe: Sausage Gravy
This recipe reminds me of all the times that I visited my grandparents when I was a child. We would lie in big iron beds upstairs and could smell the sausage cooking each morning. We could barely wait for my grandfather to call to us to let us know that the biscuits and gravy were done.
1 lb. of sausage
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the sausage in a frying pan on medium hit, crumbling it into bits as it cooks. Stir in flour until it is incorporated into the sausage. Then slowly pour in the milk, stirring constantly, to create a thick gravy. Season as needed to your taste. Serve over hot biscuits.