By Sarah Sundin
Published by Revell
Lt. Mellie Blake is a nurse serving in the 802nd Medical Squadron, Air Evacuation, Transport. As part of a morale building program, she reluctantly enters into an anonymous correspondence with Lt. Tom MacGilliver, an officer in the 908th Engineer Aviation Battalion in North Africa. As their letters crisscross the Atlantic, Tom and Mellie develop a unique friendship despite not knowing the other's true identity. When both are transferred to Algeria, the two are poised to meet face to face for the first time. Will they overcome their fears and reveal who they are, or will their future be held hostage to their past? And can they learn to trust God and embrace the gift of love he offers them?
Sarah Sundin has the gift of bringing history to life through characters I instantly care about. I was so thankful to receive a review copy of this novel with just the right mix of history that highlighted pioneering inspiring women who served as flight nurses in WWII, romance, suspense, humor and faith. Sarah brings the reader to the front lines of war in a memorable and personal way.
I loved the use of the personal letters in this book as characters wrote back and forth to each other. Mellies Lieutenant Neman’s letter writing campaign inspired by the movie Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart is on it’s way. She was seeking women who would volunteer to write anonymous letters to a unit based in England – Engineer Aviation Battalion – where her husband was stationed. The letters would not include names, pictures, just a message of encouragement to our men over seas.
Mellie was an American, born in Philippines, her father was American and mother was half American and half Filipino. Her father would call her his exotic Orchid, but American men seemed to prefer roses. She was shy and was raised in the jungle as her father did his research. She was not raised knowing the customs in America. She didn’t fit in no matter where she lived. She thought, “What if a letter could ease a man’s fears or worries or loneliness? What if her prayers could strengthen him? What if he wrote back?
On paper it wouldn’t matter if she were a rose or an orchid. Perhaps a friendship could develop, still a paper friendship, but it was more than she’d ever had before. She prayed, Lord give me the right words.”
Sergeant Larry Fong was in HMS Derbyshire, Liverpool, England, it’s 1942. “Fong’s a Chinese name not Japanese. The Chinese are our Allies, remember? I’m an American.”
Sergeant replies as the platoon leader explains the letter campaign. “You each get one letter, anonymous. You can reply or not, your choice. If you do, play by the rules. No names, personal details – hometown, people’s names, etc. Anonymity!”
Mellie starts to write her first letter, “An Anonymous correspondence appeals to me. In the real world shyness bars me from friendship, but a letter removes that barrier. I must warn you, I have little experience with friendship, but I can offer you encouragement, prayer and a listening ear…”
Larry Fong writes back to Mellie, “Dear Annie the Anonymous Nurse, Pardon the nickname but I couldn’t address a letter to “blank” You’re probably surprised to get a reply. As you thought, most of the men are looking for romance. I’m not, but I am looking for a friend.
If we met, you’d think me sociable, cheerful, and surrounded by a crowd. But in the crowd I have no true friend.
You say anonymity appeals to you. Well, it sets me free. For reasons too numerous to mention – and forbidden by anonymity – I can’t be in public. I always have to be sunny. But in anonymity, perhaps I can be myself.
You offer encouragement, prayer and a listening ear. If that offer still stands by the time you get to the end of this letter, I’ll take it. I offer the same to you.”
Larry Fong has an inner turmoil – living in his fathers shadow and being himself, not what others expect him to be.
This is a fascinating story with endearing characters that captured my heart and I could connect with. Sarah does an amazing job of capturing this slice of American history and its people for others to experience and understand. I highly recommend it and look forward to the other books in this series.
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent