Lately the World War II historical fiction books I've read have not focused on the front lines, but on the people at home affected by the war. Some of those novels covered the European homefronts, while others have told stories of young Americans whose lives were interrupted and put on hold while brothers, fiances, and neighbors went off to war. My interest in how those left behind coped and helped the war effort grew even more when I started watching the PBS series HOME FIRES. (On a side note, that series just ended after two seasons without a true ending. I just learned that the producers are publishing three books to take the story to a suitable ending. Check Amazon or Barnes and Noble for release dates. Sorry for digressing.)
When I recently read a release for Eva Marie Everson's THE ONE TRUE LOVE OF ALICE ANN, it sparked my interest right away. Another home front story, this one features a farm family in Georgia (very near the area which would be obtained by the government for Fort Stewart), especially the 16 year old daughter Alice-Ann who quickly grows up when her brother's best friend Mack enlists.
Alice-Ann's brother, 20 and already married and involved in the family farm, receives an agricultural deferment. That bit of information added another stronger layer of interest to my reading purpose. My father, who died two years ago at age 96, had an ag deferment, also, here in Wisconsin. At first he was an employee of a farm, then he and my mother married, and he took over my grandfather's farm, a place that is still in our family. I never truly understood how keeping all the farms at top production was contributing to our country's ability to wage war, but after reading about food shortages and ruined crops and such in Europe, plus thinking aboutthe enormous task of feeding the millions of soldiers, I now have a clearer view of the need for able-bodied men and women to continue working our farms.
But I digress again. Back to the book. My copy, which I obtained through inter-library loan, bears a tiny genre sticker reading "Gentle Reads," and that summarizes the book to a T. This is a gentle, quiet romance about Alice-Ann growing from the wide-eyed teenager with a dreamy crush on her brother's handsome best buddy to a maturer woman who makes the right decision about who to marry. At sixteen, Alice-Ann believes Mack will come to his senses and recognize that she is growing up and that she's the one for him. But the war intervenes and Alice-Ann keeps her dream alive by writing to Mack, finishing school, finding a job at the bank, and working very hard on the farm. Hers is a story that could be found in almost every rural town across the nation. Soon the reality of war comes to their Georgia town, as news of a local boy killed in action reaches them. Then another local boy, Carlton, returns home badly wounded, and Alice-Ann begins to spend time with this friend of her brother's who just happens to be the older brother of her own best friend. Can someone you've known all your life and whom you've considered just to be a family friend be more?
Gentle, quiet, yet realistic and worth telling -- that is the story of Alice-Ann. Strength and courage were not only found on the front lines. You will be entertained by this book, but it serves a greater purpose. If you know someone of the Greatest generation, talk to them, learn their story before it is too late. And don't think you need to seek out just the soldiers; everyone of that generation, and even the kids who were too young to serve, have something to share. Let's acknowledge and treasure their experiences