Next to Love
Spiegel & Grau, Jul 26 2011, $25.00
In 1941 in South Downs, Massachusetts, Babe, Grace and Millie worry about the men they love as the wars overseas seem heading to the States. Grace and Millie marry Charlie and Pete respectively before they ship out, but say their goodbyes at home. Babe follows her Claude who sends her telegram from his basic training base for her to come and marry him; on the train to North Carolina, she is raped. Ashamed she hides the truth from him and they marry. When babe learns she is pregnant she fears it is not Claude’s child.
The men deploy overseas, but Charlie and Pete die in combat. Claude returns home from the war, but is not the same person he was before combat. Whereas Babe from the wrong side of the tracks finds work at Western Union and vows to remain independent, Grace and Millie pray for men to take care of them. Still the trio has each other as the social reform movement sweeps the country and their kids prepare to leave the nest.
This is an engaging epic drama that focuses on three BFFs as the world radically changes from WWII into the 1960s. The cast is strong while intimate letters especially telegrams bring home life and death. Although the story line can slow down especially in the 1950s with the extended families; rotating viewpoint between the three amigas provides a strong spotlight on changing values as summed up by Claude: imagine a world without war.