Book Reviews

Impressive Debut Amidst Love, War & Letters from Home

Review: Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn’t need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she’s set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief exchange–cut short by the soldier’s evident interest in Betty–but Liz can’t forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from “Betty” are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn’t know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings. (Publisher’s Description)


The Review:

Reading her work, I would not have taken Kristina McMorris for a first-time novelist.  Her debut, Letters from Home is historical fiction flawlessly delivered and masterfully told.  She transports us back in time a nation in the middle of the harrowing tragedies of World War II, and gives us not only a beautiful love story, but several perfectly woven stories of lives forever changed in myriad ways as they were touched by the war.

Her characters were astonishingly real.  I marveled sometimes at the details of this historical period that she knew so well to make each of them come alive. From the soldiers in the field to the women and men trying to live a normal life at home her details were impressive in the life they gave these characters. As these characters explored the meaning not only of love and war, but of family and duty and home itself,  I found myself more than once feeling like I had slipped into a piece of my grandparent’s lives and aching a little bit, missing them.  Missing the parts of them I knew, and the parts of them I never will.

“They were kids back in their dad’s Iowa fields, dozing out in the open, naming shapes made of stars in the sky. A sky that offered them promises, futures as limitless as the universe.

A sky that lied.” (Ch. 6)

Not only does she give us a sweeping love story, she offers unique stories and perspectives that I wasn’t expecting (like as unlikely a soldier as ever in Betty who ends up in a remote army hospital in New Guinea) , she tackles her stories with aching beauty, loss and longing.  But not least of all there is a sense throughout the book of innocence being shed, of real people being forced into seeing the world through vastly changed eyes and maintaining throughout it all something miraculous – hope.

Letters from Home easily will remain in my mind as one of my favorite historical fiction of the era.  It felt in many ways discovering, accepting and finally coming home.  I have no doubt we will see great things from Ms. McMorris in the future.

Rating:

The Concept:

A missed connection.  A correspondence that sustains and changes both of the lovers.  Only one of them is not exactly who she says she is.  It’s a page straight from Cyrano, but it’s given so much more meaning and consequence.  The historical backdrop and excellent writing transforms and elevates this story into something more human and every bit as romantic.

Cover Story: B

I actually think this cover is a really great fit for this book.  It’s not overly original and it doesn’t blow me away, but it’s simple, pretty and fitting of the grace of the stories.  This is one case where the story inside more than makes up for any lacking perfection from the cover.

The Author:

Kristina McMorris lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Her foray into fiction began in the fall of 2006 as a result of interviewing her grandmother for the biographical section of a self-published cookbook intended as a holiday gift for the family. Inspired by her grandparents’ wartime courtship, Kristina penned  Letters from Home. Her previous writing background includes being a contributing writer for Portland Bride & Groom magazine and ten years of directing public relations for an international conglomerate. A portion of Kristina’s sales proceeds from Letters from Home will benefit United Through Reading®, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children. She is currently working on her next novel.

You can visit her website at www.kristinamcmorris.com.

ARC Courtesy of Author & Pump Up Your Book Tours
Title: Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris
Genre: Adult, Historical Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Kensington Books (March 1, 2011)
ISBN-13:  978-0758246844

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2 thoughts on “Impressive Debut Amidst Love, War & Letters from Home

  1. Wow, this sounds really good! I LOVE letters. My dad just found a whole box of numbered letters from my grandpa to his parents when he was stationed in Japan during WWII. My dad and grandpa are photo copying them and sending them to me which I think is SO cool. Thanks for the great review!

    • I do too, I have kept almost every letter I’ve ever received. But that is so cool, I bet those letters from Japan will be so fascinating to read.

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