Friday, June 24, 2011

Letters from Home

I'm thrilled to review my friend and fellow World War II fiction author, Kristina McMorris's debut novel, Letters from Home. Kristina is a delightful person and a wonderful writer.

McMorris brings a different twist to the World War II American home front with a well-crafted story of lies, love, and letters.

At a Chicago USO club dance, college student Liz Stephens meets handsome farmer-turned-private first class Morgan McClain. She tries to ignore their instant attraction since she’s already got her life mapped out: a career as a literature professor and marriage to her longtime boyfriend.

When Liz sees Morgan dancing with her roommate, pin-up worthy Betty Cordell, she tries to forget the whole thing. But Betty asks poetic Liz to ghostwrite Morgan a letter, and Liz reluctantly agrees. Unfortunately, flighty Betty heads off to New Guinea to work as a WAC nurse and tosses Morgan’s memory aside. When a return letter from Morgan arrives at the girls’ Chicago home addressed to Betty, Liz can’t stand the thought of not answering it and resumes the correspondence.

Pretty soon, Morgan and Liz become regular pen pals…except Morgan thinks he’s writing to Betty and not the gorgeous brunette he met—and fell for—at the USO dance. Meanwhile, Julia must choose between her sailor fiancĂ© and a career in fashion while coping with the battle scars of her future brother-in-law. Betty discovers nursing in a tropical location isn’t as glamorous as she hoped with all the bugs, blood, and death, but an Australian airman provides a welcome distraction.

McMorris does a swell job of incorporating vibrant details of the home front into her characters’ everyday lives and manages to convey the gritty realism of war in the European Theater without lapsing into hyperbole. Not all story threads are neatly tied at the novel’s end, which may disappoint some readers, though others may find it symbolic of how war never leaves lives in neatly wrapped packages


Valerie said...

Thanks for the review Melissa-I'm looking forward to reading this.

Although I am one of those readers who usually likes all of the threads tied up, it is a painful truth about wartime that they often weren't. But that's what makes a historical novel ring true.

Melissa Marsh said...

I think you'll really enjoy it, Valerie. :-)

Nicole said...

I really enjoyed Kristina McMorris' Letters from Home - it was one of those books that hooked you and never let go. I'm anxiously awaiting her next one!

I also agree with your note about the ending not being wrapped up in a nice little package - that is the perfect way to describe it.

If you're looking to escape to the 40s for a bit, McMorris will take you there in Letters from Home!

Melissa Marsh said...

It was a really good novel. Glad you enjoyed it, Nicole! I can't wait for her next one, either!

Kristina McMorris said...

Nicole and Melissa - I'm so thrilled you both enjoyed it! Indeed, I've heard from more than a few readers about their wanting a sequel to wrap up some of those "loose threads." :)

A nice tidy package for every major character, in my opinion, wouldn't have justly honored this generation of humble heroes - both on the home- and battle front. As you surmised, I wanted to leave the reader with hope while balancing realism of the times. If I managed to do that, I'm delighted.

Valerie - I hope you enjoy the book as well!

And believe me, I can't wait to share the second novel with all of you soon. :)

Linda said...

Melissa, I'm wondering if I found your blog through Karen, or found Karen through your blog, or if there's no connection. Whatever, you might enjoy this blog post by Karen at


Melissa Marsh said...

Thanks for stopping by, Kristina! I admit, I was one of those readers who wanted to know exactly what happened to each character, but I also think your reasons for not neatly tying everything into a pretty package are very valid.

Though you may have to write a sequel, especially about Betty!!!

Linda - I'm not sure. Will go check that blog now.

Ron Scheer said...

I'm pleased for your friend. That period has to offer such rich material to work with. And people then as always fell in and out of love and learned that there's a price you pay for every choice you make. I hope she finds lots of readers. And loose ends have the magic effect of leaving readers wanting more.

Linda said...

Hi, Melissa, a friend just posted this on Facebook about a movie she highly recommends:

"'Carve Her Name with Pride'". A true story of a young British woman working against the Germans during World War 2. Black and white from 1958. I highly recommend it! It's instant view on Netflix."

I gave her a link to you blog because she's interested in WW II as well.


Melissa Marsh said...

Ron - I'm fascinated by this time period (can you tell? lol). There's such a richness of emotions to explore...loss, war, love, sacrifice, heroism.

Linda - I've heard of that movie before, but haven't ever watched it. Will have to remedy that. Thanks for the recommendation!

Tiffany said...

Thank you for sharing your review. This looks like a great story from the era. I just finished a great book called "Letters Home," that's the true story of an American woman who was based in Japan just after the war. It's also a great read and compelling tale of life in post World War II Japan.