Kristina McMorris has hit a home run out of the ball park with this, her debut novel. Letters From Home centers around three female friends who are all out for the evening at a USO club in Chicago in 1944. Liz who is almost engaged to her childhood friend Dalton, has her life mapped out; Julia who is engaged to sailor Christian and who gives up a shot at being a fashion editor for Vogue; and Betty the blonde bombshell singer at the USO who is every guy’s fantasy but who is searching for more to her life than slinging hash at a neighborhood diner. Enter the McLain brothers, Morgan and Charlie, who are shipping out the next morning. At first glance Morgan falls for the sedate brunette Liz but ends up ‘saving’ Betty by pretending to be her fiance. As a thank you, Betty gives him her photo with her address on it and invites him to write to her. Unbeknownst to anyone else, Liz deals with her strong instant attraction to Morgan but quashes it when she spots him in a clinch with Betty.
That is where the story begins. Where it gets interesting is when Morgan, now in Europe, writes to Betty. Betty hasn’t given him a second thought and is cajoles Liz into writing a return letter for her. Liz caves in, writes the letter, and signs Betty’s name. An exchange of letters between Morgan and Betty/Liz ensues for the remainder of the war. The correspondents open their hearts to each other and in time fall in love; Liz with Morgan and Morgan with Betty.
The author has woven a time-honored story with well developed characters that we learn to care about from the first page. Her descriptions of war-time events and military hospitals is spot-on. The reactions of the characters to their personal dilemmas makes the reader empathize with their choices and the consequences. Ms. McMorris shifts our attention from the European to the Pacific Theaters of War seamlessly. We are never lost or left hanging.
While Ms. McMorris used the real-life correspondence between her own grandparents as inspiration for this story, I found myself comparing her characters to my own parents who were married shortly before my father was drafted. I was drawn into the story and couldn’t put the book down – in fact I resented any intrusion on my reading.
I heartily recommend Letters From Home to anyone who had relatives in WWII and to readers of historical fiction. I hope to read more from this promising author.