"Three friends find love and face loss against the backdrop of World War II."
Reviewed by Lenore Howard
Posted January 7, 2011
Historical | Fiction Women's Fiction
Liz Stephens is planning to marry Dalton Harris, an up-and-
coming politician in Chicago, when a chance encounter with
a soldier at a dance throws her carefully ordered life into
confusion. Liz's roommate, Julia Renard, is engaged to
Christian Downing, who is already overseas. She is
impatiently awaiting their reunion until she finds that
Christian's brother, Ian, has returned from battle
drastically changed. Even as she realizes her dream future
could turn out to be a nightmare, her sympathy for Ian
begins to turn into something deeper. Meanwhile, Betty
Cordell, the free-spirited third roommate, makes a rash
decision to be part of the war effort that will not only
change her life but endanger it.
The soldier at the dance, Morgan McClain, was enjoying one
more night of freedom with his brother, Charlie, before
shipping out. Content with life on the family farm, he had
signed up mostly to keep tabs on his impulsive sibling,
which he has done all his life. Morgan's only connection to
home becomes the letters he receives from Betty -- but
unbeknownst to him, the letters are actually written by
Liz, and in a Cyrano-like twist, Morgan falls in love with
Betty's image but Liz's words. What will happen when he
gets back home? That is, if he gets back home...
This book weaves the stories of the three roommates and two
brothers seamlessly, going back and forth between home
front and battle front. Interspersing unflinching images of
combat with more intimate, emotional scenes personalizes
this historical period and will touch your heart. The
period details draw you in, but it's the characters'
personal journeys that are the heart of the story --
especially the women, who are getting a taste of their
changing roles in society and learning to take charge of
their own lives. The poetic, heartfelt letters between
Morgan and Liz provide a shimmering thread that ties
everything together. I enjoyed this book from beginning to
Inspired by the true story of her own grandparents'
courtship during World War II, Kristina McMorris captures
the heartache and sacrifice of love and war in LETTERS FROM
HOME,an award-winning debut novel that is timeless, tender
and unforgettably moving.
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 conversation—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
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
Beautifully rendered and deeply felt, LETTERS FROM HOME is
a story of hope and connection, of sacrifices made in love
and war—and the chance encounters that change us forever.
July 4, 1944
Silence in the idling Cadillac grew as suffocating as the
city's humidity. Hands clenched on her lap, Liz Stephens
averted her narrowed eyes toward the open passenger window.
Chattering ladies and servicemen flocked by in the shadows;
up and down they traveled over the concrete accordion of
entrance steps. The sting of laughter and music drifted
through the swinging glass doors, bounced off the colorless
sky. Another holiday without gunpowder for celebration. No
boom of metallic streamers, no sunbursts awakening the
night. Only the fading memory of a simpler time.
A time when Liz knew whom she could trust.
"You know the Rotary doesn't invite just anyone to
Dalton Harris said finally. The same argument, same lack of
apology in his voice. "What was I supposed to do? Tell my
father I couldn't be there because of some dance?"
At the condescension, she snapped her gaze to his slate
gray eyes. "That," she said, "is exactly what you should've
"Honey. You're being unreasonable."
"So it's unreasonable wanting us to spend time
"That's not what I meant." A scratch to the back of
neck punctuated his frustration, a habit that had lost the
amusing charm it held when they were kids. Long before the
expensive suits, the perfect ties, the Vitalis-slickening
of his dark brown hair.
"Listen." His square jaw slackened as he angled toward
her, a debater shifting his approach. "When I was asked to
run my dad's campaign, we talked about this. I warned you my
schedule would be crazy until the election. And you were
the one who said I should do it, that between classes and
work, you'd be -"
"As busy as ever," she finished sharply. "Yes. I
I said." With Dalton in law school and she a sophomore at
Northwestern, leading independent but complementary lives
was nothing new; in fact, that had always been among the
strengths of their relationship. Which was why he should
know their separate activities weren't the issue tonight.
"Then what's the problem?" he pressed.
"The problem is, anything else pops up, campaign or
otherwise, and you don't think twice about canceling on
"I am not canceling. I'm asking you to come with me."
Liz had attended enough political fundraisers with him to
know that whispers behind plastered smiles and greedy glad-
handing would be highlights of the night. A night she could
do without, even if not for her prior commitment.
"I already told you," she said, "I promised the
ago I'd be here." The main reason she'd agreed,
condensed workload from summer school, was to repay Betty
for accompanying her to that droning version of Henry V
last week - just so Dalton's ticket hadn't gone to
waste. "Why can't you make an exception? Just this
He dropped back in his seat, drew out a sigh. "Lizzy,
just a dance."
No, it's not. It's more than that. I have to know I can
depend on you! Her throat fastened around her retort.
Explosions of words, she knew all too well, could bring
She grabbed the door handle. "I have to go." Before he
could exit and circle around to open her side, she let
"Wait," he called out as she shut the door. "Sweetheart,
The plea in his voice tugged at her like strings, halting
her. Could it be that he'd changed his mind? That he was
still the same guy she could count on?
She slid her hand into the pocket of her ivory wraparound
dress, a shred of hope cupped in her palm, before pivoting
to face him.
Dalton leaned across the seat toward her. "We'll talk
this later, all right?"
Disappointment throbbed inside, a recurrent bruise.
Bridling her reaction, she replied with a nod, fully aware
her agreement would translate into a truce.
"Have a good time," he said, then gripped the steering
wheel and drove away.
As she turned for the stairs, she pulled her hand from her
pocket, and discovered she'd been holding but a stray
thread. The first sign of a seam unraveling.
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