Firstly, the sisters:
Ruth Blum – Married to Arthur, an MIT graduate who works overseeing arms assembly, Ruth now lives on the Springfield Armory campus, in a house for officer’s wives. She is the mother to twin girls. All her life Ruth has felt to be something of an outsider. Ever since her younger sister Millie was born, Ruth has fallen into the shadow of Millie. Her beauty and popularity seemed to outshine Ruth who was more plain, the studious one, the responsible one. No where was this more evident that in the eyes of their parents.
Ruth holds a devastating secret…Millie Fein – Married to Lenny, a handsome wastrel, who can’t hold down a job and owes money to some unsavory people. When Lenny left her and their two-year-old son destitute, Millie moved from Brooklyn to Springfield to live with her estranged sister.
She gets a job in the armory ‘shops’, where she assembles triggers for the Army M1 Garand rifles. (Think Rosie the Riveter) Millie befriends the Italian cook at the cafeteria, a much needed ally, since her sister Ruth barely acknowledges her existence.
She also becomes friends with the Commanding Officer’s wife, Lillian.
Meanwhile, Millie is also keeping a secret…
Lillian Walsh – the wife of the Commanding Officer and mother to four children. Lillian has overcome a traumatic childhood to become a respected, organized, and empathetic woman.
Grace Peabody – An attractive woman who is an unpleasant, mean-spirited gossip. One of the officer’s wives, she is married to a man who has a wandering eye and drinks to excess.
A quote from the afterword of the book:
“By June of 1943, somewhere between 11,300 – 11,800 people worked at the Springfield Armory, and of that number, 43 percent were women.”
It is always so gratifying to read a historical novel that has been meticulously researched. The rewards are two-fold. You get to read a compelling story AND you learn something in the process. I learned not only about the history of the Springfield Armory during WWII, but I also learned a bit about Jewish traditions and the Jewish way of life.
The sisters in this story were very ‘human’ with all the flaws that the word represents. The story was well-paced and incorporated the history in an entertaining way.
The Springfield Armory was like a city within a city. It had a strong sense of community, with its inhabitants working toward a common goal.
How discrepancies in the way children are treated by their parents has such a profound affect on their adult personalities – and how it shapes their adult lives – is the primary focus of the narrative.
Family secrets, sibling dynamics, and an interesting peek behind the scenes of life stateside during WWII, this story held me spellbound throughout.
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from St. Martin’s Press/Macmillan Publishers via NetGalley.
ISBN: 9781250140715 – ASIN: B07D2BVXCK – 336 pages
Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, MA. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. She is now a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College, and lives with her husband and two children in Chappaqua, NY. “The Wartime Sisters” is her second novel following her debut “The Two-Family House”.
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