Liz Tolsma's two earlier books, SNOW ON THE TULIPS and DAISIES ARE FOREVER, blended war stories told by her family members with just enough fictional details to create stories that captured what life was like for those who lived in the path of Europe's WWII devastation. When her son encouraged her to write a third novel set in the Pacific arena, Tolsma accepted the challenge.
REMEMBER THE LILIES tells the story of Rand Sterling and Irene Reynolds and their time in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in the Philippines. Before the war, Rand, the successful owner of two nightclubs, spent his days womanizing and plotting how to increase his business. Once confined at the camp, his plots change. One, how to smuggle stores of food to augment the supplies which were provided by the Red Cross, but often held back by the Japanese. Two, how to escape the camp so he can visit his servant Armando who has been more than a father than anyone he's known.
It is that planned (and failed) escape that brings Irene and Rand together. Two people could hardly seem less alike. Irene, abandoned by her father and mother, was raised by her aunt, a missionary in the jungles of the Philippines. Irene assumes the responsibility of caring for her aunt, now blind and emaciated from malnutrition, spends hours with the orphaned children within the camp, but still must work assigned hours for the Japanese as a censor of messages sent to the American speaking detainees. When she reads a message meant for Rand, she censors the last few words, thinking she has not deleted anything of importance. Later, when she rethinks the message, she is sure he must hear it in its entirety, so she risks her own safety to tell him the blackened words.
REMEMBER THE LILIES, like Tolsma's first novels, shows that it was not only the soldiers on the battlefields who suffered in World War II. She also shows that perseverance and courage were not the sole domain of generals or officers. I really enjoyed her realistic portrayal of Rand and Irene. Irene, who professed a strong faith, found she really struggled when asked to forgive others. Rand, who had always put himself and his luxurious lifestyle first, finds within the restrictions and cruelty of the camp, a better way to be.
I received a copy of REMEMBER THE LILIES by Liz Tolsma for review purposes from LITFUSE PUBLICITY. Thank you. It is always great to promote the work of a talented writer from Wisconsin.
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