This is the love story of Nina Ostrom and Lyndon Raff as told by her daughter, author Nadine Taylor. As a teenager, Nadine discovers her mother’s secret – she had been married once upon a time to someone other than her current husband and father of her girls. And when Nadine uncovers a wedding photo of her mother wearing a beautiful white gown and traditional veil she is totally confused as the only wedding picture the girls have seen of their parents portrays their mother dressed in a pearl gray suit. The story of mom Nina’s first true love unfolds over time and in stark contrast to her drink-addled and abusive current spouse. In order to maintain a semblance of domestic peace, mom Nina keeps any thoughts of her lost love – Lyndon, who perished in World War II – buried and suppressed. In the end Jay Taylor, Nina’s second husband, is consumed by alcoholism. Nina manages at last to acknowledge the loss of her first husband and grieve openly for him.
If My Heart Had Wings is also the story of author Nadine Taylor as she grows and escapes from her abusive father. We learn about her search for Lyndon Raff’s family and about the misinformation that Lyndon’s siblings were fed by his jealous mother – information that cast Nina as an uncaring and vengeful widow. Thankfully, after many years, Nina’s reputation is cleared and her brother-in-law makes peace with both his deceased brother’s and sister-in-law’s legacies.
I found this historical memoir to be fascinating. Not the usual WWII story, If My Heart Had Wings is at once poignant and heartbreaking. Nina’s plight at the hands of her second husband deals with two major domestic problems – alcoholism and domestic abuse – that are still prevalent today. Following the genealogical route taken by author Nadine Taylor held my interest as this reviewer is currently researching her own ancestors. Readers interest in genealogy should find this book interesting.
It is easy to see that If My Heart Had Wings is a loving tribute to family, first love, and finding one’s roots. Well written and edited, this was a joy to read.
This reviewer was provided with an ARC by the author in exchange for my honest review.
Rating: 4.5 stars