Book Title and Author: The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman
Publication Date and Publisher: January 22, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 304 pages
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: November 17, 2018 (e-arc)
Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.
Although The Wartime Sisters a World War II novel set during the early 1930s and early 1940s, it’s more than anything a story about two very different sisters who have been waging their own personal wars against each other since they were young children. They’ve been estranged for several years but are suddenly forced together because of traumatic events in one of their lives. It’s also a novel of female relationships and friendships forged under the unusual circumstances of war where women from different parts of life, religion, and class worked to hold the homefront together for the boys and men fighting overseas during WWII.
Lynda Cohen Loigman does a magnificent job telling the story through the use of multiple POVs: the sisters, Ruth and Millie, Arietta, a former vaudeville singer now a cook in the armory’s cafeteria, and Lillian, wife of the commanding officer of the Springfield Armory.
The plot focuses primarily on Millie and Ruth, two Jewish sisters from Brooklyn. With a timeline that goes back and forth seamlessly from the past to the present, the story of why the two siblings became estranged unfolds, as well as secrets each is keeping from the other are revealed that make for an unexpectedly suspenseful part of the plot that shocked me in a good way because it was so well-done.
Ruth, the older, extremely smart sister has never felt she could compare to her younger sister Millie, who has always been doted on for her tremendous beauty and charm and could do no wrong in her parent’s eyes. Loigman’s portrayal of the sister’s rivalry, hurt, guilt, and blame is outstandingly done as she captures the feelings of each sister–the hurt of the older sister who is overlooked, especially by their mother, the sensitivity of the younger sister who doesn’t understand her older sister’s resentment, as well as the pain and guilt both feel when they have no relationship and no loving sisterly bond.
Lillian and Arietta are probably my favorite characters in the entire book! If you read the novel, I think you will see why. They are excellent friends to Ruth and Millie and are able to provide them with the friendship and support they each need when they eventually reach out to one another. I think everyone needs a friend like Lillian and Arietta (and I could definitely use some of Arietta’s lasagna in my life!).
I’ve rarely, (if ever that I remember!), read a novel that takes place in the United States during WWII that shows the historic and extremely pivotal roles women played during wartime when they filled the positions in manufacturing and factories left open when husbands, fathers, and brothers went to fight overseas. So I loved the extremely well-researched and accurate portrayal Loigman gave of life for women on the homefront during the war years and how Ruth, Millie, Arietta, Lillian, and the various other women who lived on the military base lived, went to work, helped with each other’s childcare, and played such a huge role in the war effort. It is a quite different type of WWII novel and one I thoroughly enjoyed!
If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know that I love historical fiction and WWII fiction is one of my favorites. The Wartime Sisters is one WWII historical fiction novel that I certainly recommend you read. It’s a meticulously researched, well-written, character-driven story full of secrets, sisterly bonds, and strong female characters that will keep you turning pages long into the night! It publishes on January 22, 2019 so be sure to pick up a copy as soon as you can!
**Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for an ARC to read in exchange for my fair and honest review.**