Most helpful critical review
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Good historical lesson
on January 17, 2014
I thought this was a fantastic premise for a book. I was familiar with the concept of stars in the window for sons (and now daughters!) serving abroad and with the gold stars for those who lost a son during World Wars I and II, but I was not familiar with the government sponsored pilgrimages of these mothers to the graves of their sons. Its kind of amazing that our government did that-and really what an undertaking that must have been. (This short article is interesting for further reading.) I liked that the group we follow in the book, Party A, is made up of such very different women, the maid, the socialite, the Jewish farmer’s wife and the widowed Mrs. Blake. I believe that’s one of the good things about our military-all walks of life meet up together. Unfortunately, these soldiers died together, the mothers’ grief becomes a uniting factor across class, religion and race.
I think Smith got too carried away with her subjects and what could have been an interesting and touching story was too bogged down by extraneous details and side stories. If Smith had been able to narrow down her focus I think she could have also done more to keep her characters real and language true to the time period. It felt like every character you met had a back story, and they just didn’t matter. I would rather have gone deeper into a few issues, such as the separation of the white and African American mothers, than have read about the history of the Army General who planned the pilgrimages. The fact that there is a “death, a scandal, a secret revealed” on the journey should be enough to keep the reader engrossed without overloading on irrelevant information.
There were passages in this book that I found quite moving, especially as the mothers visited the cemetery where their sons were buried and later the battlefield where they died. But the best parts of the writing I had to search for in between the trivial details or language that seemed to anachronistic to me. I was invested in Mrs. Blake’s story as well as Bobbie's and Wilhelmina's, and I wish I had been able to be more interested in the other mothers. This was definitely worth a read for the historical perspective and a different kind of women's story.