Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Title:  Next to Love

Author:  Ellen Feldman

Genre:  Fiction

Published:  January 2012 – Spiegel & Grau (trade paperback)

About:  (from the Goodreads synopsis) It’s 1941. Babe throws like a boy, thinks for herself, and never expects to escape the poor section of her quiet Massachusetts town. Then World War II breaks out, and everything changes. Her friend Grace, married to a reporter on the local paper, fears being left alone with her infant daughter when her husband is shipped out; Millie, the third member of their childhood trio, now weds the boy who always refused to settle down; and Babe wonders if she should marry Claude, who even as a child could never harm a living thing. As the war rages abroad, life on the home front undergoes its own battles and victories; and when the men return, and civilian life resumes, nothing can go back to quite the way it was.

My take:  Next to Love is one of those novels that reinforce my love of reading fiction. It’s not a heartwarming Norman Rockwell-ish tale of the folks at home while their loved ones fought in Europe. Instead, Feldman wrote a believable portrayal of how hard it was for both. At least I believed it. It was unglamorous and gritty at times but also courageous and uplifting.

Babe, Grace and Millie strive to do what is expected of them. Each handles it in her own way which is either embraced or frowned upon. Each chapter spotlights one of the women which gives great depth to each character. We learn their background, perspective and motivation.

The scene that affected me the most was the day many families received word that a loved one died in the invasion of Normandy. As each telegram was delivered I could feel the terror and heartbreak of the person receiving the news.

The time span of the early 1940s to early 1960s was one of great social and political change. It was interesting to see how Feldman’s characters experienced those years. I recommend Next to Love to anyone who loves to read about this time in history and I think it would be a good choice for book clubs.

Source: The publisher via Goodreads First Reads

Disclosure:  See sidebar. I was not compensated for my review.