Sara Ackerman brings her debut title to the blog today – an historic fiction set in the waning years of World War II on the Big Island of Hawaii: full of atmosphere, hope, secrets, love and moments of laughter. Please read on for my review of
Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
Vividly descriptive and evocative of life and the challenges presented in wartime: Violet and Ella Iverson are existing day to day with grief and fear as constant companions. A year from her husband’s disappearance, questions are many yet answers few. The lush landscapes, omnipresent heat and frequent rain, fears of invasion and the sudden transformation of friends and neighbors to a nebulous and feared “them”, the multiple layers of questions, answers and quandaries build this story into a rich tapestry and testament to the many stories of the ‘homefront’ and life during war.
Told in two points of view: Violet’s adult perspective as a relative newcomer struggling with grief and her own place and her daughter Ella, a child of the islands and more native than one might expect. Violet’s struggle to move forward with unanswered questions about her husband, her own frustrations and worry for Ella and her changed behavior, and the influx of strangers (soldiers) into their relatively quiet lives, more apparent with her housemate Jean’s need to find a love of her own keeps her busy, if not confident in the steps she is taking.
Ella’s moments are worries about her secrets, her love for her cat and her desire for more animals to befriend. Her moments share an innocence and purity of observations that are well beyond her years. A sweetness that is damped by fears and the time, but never quite silent. Her rescue of the chicken Brownie, and her knitted dress, the instant rapport with the lion cub, seeing him as a cat – a big cat without a purr-box, all show her heart and kindness.
The pacing here is varied: fast moving against barely breathing: highlight the moments the young marines are using to live each moment fully before deployment to some unknown fate, the instant rapport with Ella and each animal, and the friendships and romances that start to grow and become more important as time passes. The gradual recognition of personal strengths, questions and determination to stand strong for themselves and those who rely on them becomes the rail on which the story progresses: each character becoming realized in moments of illumination, each moment of recognition brings a new step along the path to the resolution of many unanswered questions and concerns.
A read in one siting title, the story adds bits and pieces together to make a picture: one that will stay long after the last page.
Title: Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers
Author: Sara Ackerman
Genre: Family Saga, Historical Fiction, Mystery Elements, Romantic Elements, Setting: American, World War II
Published by: Harlequin MIRA
Published on: 13 February, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Audio Length: 10 Hours
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When her husband mysteriously disappears and rumors swirl about his loyalties, a mother must rely on the remarkable power of friendship in war-torn Hawaii
It’s 1944, combat in the Pacific is intensifying, and Violet Iverson and her daughter, Ella, are piecing their lives back together one year after her husband vanished. As suspicions about his loyalties surface, Violet suspects Ella knows something. But Ella refuses to talk. Something—or someone—has scared her.
Violet enjoys the camaraderie of her friends as they open a pie stand for the soldiers training on the island for a secret mission. But even these women face their own wartime challenges as prejudice against the island Japanese pits neighbor against neighbor. And then there’s the matter of Sergeant Stone, a brash marine who comes to Violet’s aid when the women are accused of spying. She struggles with her feelings of guilt but can’t deny the burning attraction—or her fear of losing another man when Stone ships out for Iwo Jima.
Set amid the tropical beauty of Hawaii, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers offers a fresh perspective on World War II as it presents timeless depictions of female friendship, the bond between a mother and her child, and the enduring power of love even in the darkest times.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.