George Simon is the son of a rich white lawyer. Instead of having his father pull strings to get him out of military service (as his father wants), George decides to voluntarily enlist…and happens to be at Pearl Harbor when it’s attacked. Against all odds, he lives—but only because Gordy, one of the black cooks, saves his life…and gruesomely loses his own in the process.
This is how George meets Thelma, Gordy’s wife, and Luther, Thelma’s brother. These three characters become the main focus of the book, and the story follows them as they each try to survive the war. George and Luther are shipped off to fight in Europe (George is eventually captured by the Japanese), and Thelma goes to work at a shipyard, despite vehement disapproval from the town’s white community.
This is a beautifully written story. The characters are well-developed and complex, believably evolving and maturing over time. I found myself lost in the book almost immediately, so invested in each of the characters’s journeys that I felt legitimately overwhelmed at times. So many truly awful things happen to just about everyone in this book. People die left and right, which I suppose is expected in a book about World War II. But it’s especially difficult to see how the war was experienced by black Americans. What a complicated and brutal time for people of color. While white America was fighting one war, black America was fighting two. Thelma’s story just about broke my heart, honestly.
So this is a tough book to read. It’s raw and gritty and there’s pretty much no turning away. But it is a solid, outstanding story. Brace yourself.
Big thank you to Agate Bolden and Amazon Vine for the ARC.