From perennial bestseller Diane Chamberlain, a compelling new novel
In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.
The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.
When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?
I love historical fiction, especially anything to do with the depression or world war II. It was the great equalizer if you think about it. Whether you were wealthy or poor you worried about your loved ones fighting in the war. You mourned and grieved those who didn't make it home. You learned to go without sugar in your coffee when your rations ran out, and all the money in the world couldn't save you from getting polio before the vaccine finally became available. Polio didn't care if you were black or white or rich or impoverished.
So while there were many things about this book I loved, I have to say I disliked Henry Kraft immensely. Before I get ahead of myself lets start with Tess, the good girl from Baltimore madly in love with Vince and about to pursue their lifelong dream of getting married and working together in the medical field. He is a doctor and she is about to become an RN. This dream is ruined by one awful night, and although Henry is portrayed as a kind and caring and decent man.. well to me that awful night was entirely on him.
Tess ends up leaving the only life she has ever known, and moves to North Carolina with Henry, where she is treated as an unwelcome unwanted outsider by his family and the townspeople. When an outbreak of polio strikes and the town comes together to build a hospital, Henry's mother is disgusted by Tess wanting to work there as a nurse. Tess refuses to sit idly by when she has skills that are in such desperate need, especially considering she has been told by the only person who has shown her any kindness, that it's what she is meant to do. I loved Tess, and the remarkable strength she showed especially considering women in those days were expected to do as their husbands told them.
4 out of 5 stars from me.
I received an advance copy for review.