A Memory Between Us
The bombers of WWII have always been a fascinating subject for me, which is ultra odd since I am not into planes or war. But the history behind our bombing missions, the whole story of the “flying fortress” and the strategy of daylight bombing somehow always seem to grip my attention and hold it. When I saw the fantastic covers to Sarah Sundin’s Wings of Glory, the tales of three pilot brothers during WWII, I nearly swooned. If a set of books had ever been tailor made just for me, this was it.
Major Jack Novak has always been a golden boy, quick to succeed at almost anything he turns his hand to. But there is a certain ignobility to getting shot in the rear with shrapnel and then getting shot down by the nurse you propose to while under the influence of morphine. Handsome, charming Jack doesn’t take no for an answer easily though. He may just have been shot down, in more ways than one, but he has a lot of fight left in him. He quickly puts into effect Campaign Ruth, with the intention of winning a date from his beautiful “never goes out with a patient” nurse. And what Jack wants, he almost always gets.
Ruth Doherty has pretty much seen nothing but trouble in her life. With seven orphaned siblings to support at home, she doesn’t have the time, money or inclination to socialize. And her past experiences with men have been the kind of which nightmares are made. Now she is under siege by a man with charm, looks and money and doesn’t know where to turn. Can Jack possibly ever understand the choices she has had to make to survive? And can he appreciate the sacrifices and suffering that have led her to where she is now?
Ruth is an amazing character. Careful to guard her heart after all that has happened to her, she has allowed herself to become completely isolated. She doesn’t have friends or lovers, and in the manner of children, her siblings take her completely for granted. Other relatives resent her a bit for asking them to take care of said siblings, even though Ruth is the one paying the kids’ bills. Her life became tough when her father became an invalid and she pretty much learned that all she could expect from each new day was either an increase in the old problems or a whole set of new ones. In spite of all this, she isn’t one of those whiny “Woe is me” characters. She is a competent and kind nurse, career minded both for the money and for love of the job. And part of her longs for what others take for granted. When her new roommate May persists in becoming her friend, Ruth slowly lets her, not sure that life would hand her something good but willing to carefully try just the same. When Jack shows the same persistence, Ruth gradually begins to allow him in, in spite of her fear that he will discover the big memory that lies between her and any marital happiness (at least in her mind). It was great to see her open up, to really let herself enjoy life again after all that she had been through. She (and the history of WWII nursing told through her) were the stars of the book.
Jack the golden boy reminded me of a spoiled frat boy, surprising considering that he was the son of a pastor and had been trained at seminary himself. I also thought he seemed more of a fighter pilot than bomber, with his devil may care attitude and way of plowing through life with little thought. He was also a bit prideful and demanding, the kind of man who was always having others grab his coffee or pick something up for him. He did have some good traits – he had a warm, impetuous nature, a solid love for his family, and a love for flying and the military which were all very positive. And as the book went on, he grew, gaining some of the maturity he badly needed.
As a couple, I struggled with them a bit. I really enjoyed their courtship – Jack was so subtle and yet romantic that he really made it great to watch Ruth be reeled in. But a part of me felt that Jack, who had had so few real problems in life, was almost too much sunshine for a built-by-rainy-days kind of gal like Ruth. I was glad when his star dimmed a bit and I could trust in their relationship a tiny bit more.
The religion level of this novel is high. The author once again weaves faith into her character’s lives but here there is also a bit of evangelizing going on. Ruth has walked away from her faith (big surprise after all that happened to her) and Jack and May work at bringing her back to the fold. It was well done and certainly seemed a natural part of the tale given this was an inspirational, but I wanted to mention how strongly it is emphasized throughout the novel.
A big theme is mercy and forgiveness, which Jack really needed to learn. When the big “memory between us” is revealed, Jack reacted so vilely that he knocked the book down from a DIK to a B. He didn’t just not take things well, he was vicious. His conscience gets to him pretty quickly and he does do some groveling but part of that was completely out of character. The way he tries to fix things is a bit bumbling too. Was it badly written? No. But his harshness, his judgmental response, his refusal to listen to Ruth as she tried to explain things, his treatment of a person he knew had been through a lot and was fragile – all of that was just difficult to take and ruined some of my enjoyment of the novel. I know for many readers it would be a deal breaker, which is why I emphasize it so much. It was especially hard to take because of how ardently he had pursued Ruth and how sweet the courtship had been.
Ruth also has to undergo one more trial, in which she encounters a dishonest soldier and a superior who is protecting him. It had some good tie in to her faith and how it has changed her, but part of me just wanted the suffering to end for her. Still, my own experience with life is that trouble can at times seem relentless, so I certainly didn’t find it unrealistic.
This is the second book in this series, but I read it first and it easily stands alone. I also liked it enough that I immediately picked up book one and preordered book three. So while I’ve said some harsh things, don’t let that fool you. The good far outweighs the bad. The novel is well written, well researched and an enjoyable read. The characters really grow and learn throughout and for the most part are a pleasure to spend time with. There is a sweet, secondary romance which really touched my heart. And there are some wonderful, funny scenes which are vividly and warmly portrayed.
I would recommend to this to any reader of Inspirationals, particularly if you enjoy World War II stories.