The United States Congress in 1929 passed legislation to fund travel for mothers of the fallen soldiers of World War I to visit their sons’ graves in France. Over the next three years, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers made the trip. In this emotionally charged, brilliantly realized novel, April Smith breathes life into a unique moment in American history, imagining the experience of five of these women.
They are strangers at the start, but their lives will become inextricably intertwined, altered in indelible ways. These very different Gold Star Mothers travel to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to say final good-byes to their sons and come together along the way to face the unexpected: a death, a scandal, and a secret revealed.
None of these pilgrims will be as affected as Cora Blake, who has lived almost her entire life in a small fishing village off the coast of Maine, caring for her late sister’s three daughters, hoping to fill the void left by the death of her son, Sammy, who was killed on a scouting mission during the final days of the war. Cora believes she is managing as well as can be expected in the midst of the Depression, but nothing has prepared her for what lies ahead on this unpredictable journey, including an extraordinary encounter with an expatriate American journalist, Griffin Reed, who was wounded in the trenches and hides behind a metal mask, one of hundreds of “tin noses” who became symbols of the war.
With expert storytelling, memorable characters, and beautiful prose, April Smith gives us a timeless story, by turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, set against a footnote of history––little known, yet unforgettable.
Summary & Cover taken from Goodreads.com
Length: 352 pages (Paperback)
Source: Review Copy
Available Formats: Print/E-book/Audio
Publication Date: January 14th 2014 by Knopf
What. A. Read.
When I signed up for the tour I was really interested in the book because I had never heard of the Gold Star Mothers. I'm a Canadian so I'm not well versed in American history but I found the idea of this government initiative to be what drove me to sign up since I rarely read historical fiction set after 1900 and I was very interested in reading a book based on a fictional woman, from small town America travelling overseas to finally see where her son rested 13 years after his death.
I loved Cora, especially how we were introduced to her. We got to know her, and what kind of life she led right from the beginning. For me I especially loved the fact that Cora was an average woman. She was intelligent, and strong and so giving I was in awe of her strength to move on after the death of her son and her courage to confront his grave site so many years on. I'm not a mother yet, but I can't imagine burying my son or daughter overseas and being separated from them, but I respected her decision because of how much thought she gave it. Which was another thing that I enjoyed about Cora, she was a thinker and always weighed her options and she made me feel so much for her.
Since I don't read many novels set in this time period I though it was a fantastic change of pace. I loved getting to know the world through Cora's eyes. I could tell how well researched the novel was and really appreciated that she chose to write the novel based on the perspective of a common woman rather than that of an upper class woman. I loved seeing Cora transform into a new woman whilst on her journey to see her son and the people she met along the way were every bit as interesting as she was, even if there were one or two I didn't care for as much.
In the end, I thought this was a though provoking read, I wonder about the real Gold Star Mothers, I wonder if they were relieved to see their fallen sons grave sites or only full of resolution that they had done the right thing in keeping them where they'd fallen. A Star for Mrs. Blake opened up a part of history that I had known nothing about before and made me remember all those brave men who died in the service for our nations and thankful to the mothers who lost their boys for the war effort. It was an emotional read, and definitely has me wanting to look into the time period more as well as leaving me wanting to read more by April Smith. Her writing is rich and descriptive and I loved her characters.
I would recommend A Star for Mrs. Blake to all those who enjoy historical fiction, and historical fiction set in the 1930's. It provides a brief glimpse into a past not so long ago but the differences in life between then and now are striking. This will make you think, and feel a wide range of emotions.
*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my free and honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are 100% my own.
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