This book is Volume 1 of a trilogy entitled “French Letters. This story is told through the eyes of a young boy, Sandy Clayton, who with his two best buddies Sluggo and Butch managed to get into everything, be everywhere and see everything, although they didn’t always understand what they saw. The boys playing war games gave Sandy a broken nose, which sent him to old Doc Pritchard, a cranky old man. While in his office, he overheard Doc talking to a young woman, and then heard him call her father, Poppy, and tell him “Sure, I know what’s wrong with her. She’s knocked up.” Poppy’s beautiful daughter Virginia, just out of high school, worked in the courthouse office as a clerk handling ration books. During WWII, meat, butter, sugar, coffee, other food staples, tires, gas, and such were rationed out according to one’s occupation, age, etc. It caused hardships on folks at home, especially if they lived in the country. The town of Tierra, Texas was a little town dying on its feet after the cotton gin burned down. Men, separated from their families, left home and went where there was war work.
Poppy was an enigma whom people didn’t care to decipher. He seemed just a little smarter than anyone else and when most boys age 18 either had to join the service or get drafted, his son Bart was 4F because Doc Pritchard found him to be unfit for service. Poppy managed to have him appointed postmaster, but Bart was actually stupid and vindictive. Poppy’s daughter Virginia was ignored by Poppy after her mother was institutionalized for mental illness. Virginia was shocked to learn she was pregnant and didn’t know how she could deal with it. A classmate, Will Hastings, always had a crush on Virginia and continually asked her to wait for him. She didn’t care to be tied down. He attended medical school to become doctor. When he graduated from medical school, he entered the service as a doctor and officer. Just before he left, Will and Virginia made love only once, which impregnated Virginia.
Will attempted to write Virginia when he was over seas, but Bart, out of meanness, withheld the letters from Virginia. Without Virginia’s knowledge or agreement, Poppy published an announcement in the local paper that Will and Virginia had eloped at Thanksgiving time, which was just before Will left. Because of Bart’s actions, Will’s and Virginia’s letters never reached each other.
The story centers around Will and Virginia, the government’s intrusion in everyone’s lives, shenanigans by a few local men who managed to have rationed goods stock piled and an extra supply of ration stamps. It is a true life picture of small town America during these times when everyone worried about the young men off at war, the emotional pain of parents and girls who lost loved ones, even a small section covering the Bataan death march.
The story is told in a simple manner, but comes alive for the reader. Because Americans at home haven’t been physically so affected since WWII with rationing, lack of medical supplies etc. many of the aspects revealed in this story may be an eye opener. This reviewer was 11 years old at the time of Pearl Harbor and lived through the days of rationing, innocent, naïve teenage boys leaving home to go to war and life for those left behind. I truly enjoyed this story and recommend it.
Reviewed by Joan A. Adamak