Monday, January 27, 2014

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of World War I.  In 1917-18, the Americans entered the war, toward the end, to support the allies and defeat the Germans.  116, 516 American soldiers were killed and paid the ultimate sacrifice.  30, 000 soldiers were buried overseas in American cemeteries.  In 1929, the U.S. Congress voted to send U. S. mothers overseas to visit their sons' graves in France.  6,693 mothers made the trip.

A Star for Mrs. Blake takes on a little known piece of history and brings it to life.  Cora Blake is from a small fishing town in Maine and her only son, Sam lost his life during WWI.  In February 1931, Cora receives a letter from the U.S. Government inviting her on a trip to France to visit the grave of her son, buried near Verdun.

Five women join Cora's group, known as Party A, and they travel together by ship to Paris, bonded by the loss of their sons. Each woman harbors their own secret pain as they journey to see the final resting place in the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery.  They are accompanied by an Army nurse, named Lily and Lieutenant  Thomas Hammond.  Once they reach France, their pilgrimage is anything but ordinary.

April Smith has created a beautiful, heartfelt novel that will make you question war and its inevitable consequences.  The characters are sweet and compelling and will make you keep turning the pages.  The shadow of a future war is upon them as they tour a country still re-building itself.  Smith has written a well rounded novel of the horrors of WWI without actually writing a novel about WWI.  A Star for Mrs. Blake takes place between the World Wars and in my opinion is extremely well written and is a reminder and a cautionary tale for mothers everywhere.

A Star for Mrs. Blake moved me to tears.  Tears for the boys we have lost and for the mothers who miss them.