“Aimie K. Runyan writes to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of historical novels: Promised to the Crown, Duty to the Crown, Daughters of the Night Sky, and Girls on the Line. She is active as an educator and speaker in the writing community and beyond. She lives in Colorado with her wonderful husband and two (usually) adorable children.”
Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
“A woman unlocks the mystery of her father’s wartime past in a moving novel about secrets, sacrifice, and the power of love…”
Across the Winding River follows the “hearts and minds” of Max, a young American soldier during WWll; Beth, his daughter’s search for clues to a long, lost secret sibling, and Johanna, the brilliant German test pilot in the Luftwaffe for the Nazi’s. All three walk a delicate line between memories and truth.
Readers will identify with Beth, a modern-day woman grieving the loss of her mother and also beginning to recognize and accept herself-recently divorced and adjusting to a new social standing. Beth’s father, Max, is living out his last days in a private care facility while Beth is doing all she can to organize his affairs while sorting out his memorabilia and learning about his war- time experiences. The author chooses to focus on Max and his medic experiences in a lesser known battle that raged for three months in Hurtgen Forest, known as the Death Factory, rather than the D-Day beaches of Normandy. The descriptions and details of the area and the lengthy battle with no clear victor, is a different perspective of the war. The third bend in the “winding river” is Johanna and the role she plays in living out her own mathmatical dreams as she finds it more and more difficult to hide her Jewish ancestry, while actually working for the Nazi’s in order to survive and avoid the concentration camps.
The lives of Beth, Max, and Johanna intersect in some twists and turns in the river; all to reveal powerful lessons in the sacrifices that have been made, and to uncover surprising secrets of love and loss.
Readers who choose Across the Winding River by Aimie K. Runyan will come to “champion amd adore” Max’s story.
The Battle of Hürtgen Forest was a series of fierce battles fought from 19 September to 16 December 1944, between American and German forces on the Western Front during World War II, in the Hürtgen Forest, a 140 km² area about 5 km east of the Belgian–German border.
New Orleans, Louisiana: The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. https://www.nationalww2museum.org/
“The Yellow Bird Sings is Jennifer Rosner’s debut novel. She is the author of the memoir If A Tree Falls: A Family’s Quest to Hear and Be Heard, and the children’s book, The Mitten String. Her writing has appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. Jennifer lives in western Massachusetts with her family.”
“A mother. A child. An impossible choice.
Poland, 1941. After the Jews in their town are rounded up, Róza and her five-year-old daughter, Shira, spend day and night hidden in a farmer’s barn. Forbidden from making a sound, only the yellow bird from her mother’s stories can sing the melodies Shira composes in her head.
Róza does all she can to take care of Shira and shield her from the horrors of the outside world. They play silent games and invent their own sign language. But then the day comes when their haven is no longer safe, and Róza must face an impossible choice: whether to keep her daughter close by her side, or give her the chance to survive by letting her go.” Goodreads
The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
“Beauty will save the world,” – The hope and optimism shared from mother to daughter.
Roza and Shira are running for their lives; fighting the memories of the killing and devastation of families and homes. With the chilling descriptions the reader is left wondering how in the midst of such tragedy does a mother find the fortitude to keep going? In Jennifer Rosner’s own words: “to fight the sting in her thighs, the rolling bile in her stomach, the biting cold at her nose and cheeks and fingertips. She pushes on despite the pain and atrophy, despite her acute desire to stop and rest. She tries to outrun her loss.”
Jennifer Rosner’s detailed descriptions take the reader on a roller coaster of the senses. Through her deftly chosen words the reader cringes at the sting of the biting cold, the pungent, rotting smells of the barn and the itchy hay and stiffness of legs and arms. Just at the right moment the reader reaches the crest and is lifted and encouraged as the memories of those glorious and melodic sounds of violins, cellos and music halls are shared. Then oh so quickly, plunged and jerked back to the dreaded fear of being found and shot. The “death defying ride” is worth it in the end.
This emotional tale of a mother’s love and her daughter’s devotion is intricately and indelibly woven with a ‘fairy tale of hope;” told by Roza so that Shira remains perfectly still and quiet. It’s her story of how an imaginary yellow bird sings in a garden of daisies- perfect for weaving garlands for princesses, and magical music that helps the flowers bloom. Of course, every fairy tale must also include an element of evil: the “boot stomping” giants and beasts that are to be feared.
This debut novel rotates between Roza’s frantic search for Shira, and the stoic quest of a daughter to rejoin her mother. The rubble and chaos of war is mixed with the tuning of violins and ecstasy of concertos; leaving the reader breathless, anxiously awaiting the crescendo.
Jennifer Rosner’s The Yellow Bird Sings is indeed a true “symphony!” GR
“It’s almost impossible today, almost fifty years later, to conceive how difficult it was for a woman correspondent to get beyond a rear-echelon military position, in other words to the front, where the action was.“- David E. Scherman, Life Magazine correspondent
New York City, 1942: A Vogue Magazine photo shoot featuring model, Jessica May, her gorgeous blonde hair and famous winning smile, is the opening scene of The Paris Orphan. Due to an untimely breech of confidence by Jessica’s boyfriend, the star treatment from Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Glamour comes to a screeching halt. To wait out being blacklisted, Jessica returns to her photojournalism skills and pleads to be sent to Paris as a correspondent for Vogue. The editor’s goal was for American women to hear & read stories from the front told by women, not by men. Jessica’s idea was, ” Let’s try. We can only fail spectacularly.”
France, 2005: It’s been sixty years since World War II ended, and D’Arcy Hallworth, art curator from Sydney, Australia, has arrived at a fairy tale chateaux, Lieu de Reves, to assist a reclusive photographer with preparing a collection of wartime photographs for a gallery exhibition.
The dual timeline between the war zone through the lens of Jessica May, and the romantic, artistic eyes of D’Arcy’s examination of herself and the war photos, keeps the reader engrossed in the female journalists’ struggles to get to the front and the revealing of a family’s secrets. Natasha Lester’s superb descriptions of the French countryside,chateaux, battle sites, war zones, concentration camps, hospital operating tents; along with the infuriating male soldiers and their treatment of the female correspondents, will keep the reader up late; wishing for a copy of Vogue and cheering for the courageous women photojournalists who forged their way “to the front” for all the female writers and photographers dreaming of their own careers. “The only person who can change your future is yourself.” Jessica May
The Grateful Reader always appreciates the intensive research it takes to write a novel of historical fiction. The Author’s Notes are as intriguing as the novel itself! The following are a few of the female correspondents either mentioned or upon which characters were based in The Paris Orphan. For women everywhere- Salute! GR
Lee Miller is the basis for the character- model & journalist Jessica May: Elizabeth “Lee” Miller, Lady Penrose, was an American photographer and photojournalist. She was a fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, where she became a fashion and fine art photographer. During the Second World War, she was a war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.
Lee Miller to her editor at Vogue: “Every word I write is as difficult as tears wrung from stone.”
Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub. Lee described Hitler’s apartment in a piece, “Hitleriana,” published in Vogue in 1945. Natasha Lester attributes this scene to Jessica May in The Paris Orphan.
Martha Ellis Gellhorn (November 8, 1908 – February 15, 1998) was an American novelist, travel writer, and journalist who is considered one of the great war correspondents of the 20th century. She reported on virtually every major world conflict that took place during her 60-year career.
British journalist and war correspondent who was one of the few women to report the Allied invasion of Europe from D-Day in June 1944 to the surrender of Germany in May 1945. Retired from journalism (early 1930s) to raise a family; start of World War II motivated her to return to the profession to cover the Battle of Britain; facing strong discrimination by British military authorities and determined to be a combat reporter, was hired by the Boston Globe and was accredited with the 1st American Army; her reports from the front lines and hospitals in France and Germany described in graphic prose some of the bloodiest fighting on the Western front, including the Battle of the Bulge as well as the liberation of Nazi concentration camps; remained in the U.S., working for Voice of America.
Lee Carson attended Smith College, Chicago, aged 14 and left, aged 16 to become a reporter for the Chicago Times. In 1940 she joined the International News Service, she was made a War correspondent in 1943.
Carson was dubbed by her colleagues as ‘the best looking’ female war correspondent, and reportedly used this to her advantage. Hubert Zemke recalled that she caused a stir when she visited the 56th Fighter Group sometime in the Spring of 1944. She supposedly talked a pilot into letting her aboard a bomber on D-Day, where she witnessed the bombing of Cherbourg, and became the only female War Correspondent to come close to the Normandy Invasion.
Famed for her shapely legs, Carson spent most of the war with them covered by trousers, she was the first Allied War Correspondent to enter Paris following liberation. Attached to the 4th Army, she rode in on a Jeep, and reported on the Parisian Hepcats and civilians who had resisted occupation. She later joined the 1st Army with fellow war Correspondent Iris Carpenter and crossed the Seigfried Line at Aachen.
Carpenter and Carson reported on the Battle of the Bulge and witnessed the first GIs meeting Russian Troops. On 15 April 1945, assigned to the task force which liberated the Castle, Carson entered Colditz and took the only photo of the “cock” glider, built by inmates and hidden in the Attic. On 23 April 1945, Carson was present at the liberation of the Erla Work Camp at Leipzig, she was horrified at the suffering of the inmates.
Lee Carson retired from the International News Service in 1957, she died of Cancer, aged 51 in 1973.
Noelle Salazar was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, where she’s been a Navy recruit, a medical assistant, an NFL cheerleader and always a storyteller. As a novelist, she has done extensive research into the Women Airforce Service Pilots, interviewing vets and visiting the training facility—now a museum dedicated to the WASP—in Sweetwater, Texas. When she’s not writing, she can be found dodging raindrops and daydreaming of her next book. Noelle lives in Bothell, Washington, with her husband and two children. The Flight Girls is her first novel.
A HISTORY OF THE WOMEN AIRFORCE SERVICE PILOTS In 1942, as the country reeled from the attack on Pearl Harbor, trained male pilots were in short supply. Qualified pilots were needed to fight the war. The Army also was desperate for pilots to deliver newly built trainer aircraft to the flight schools in the South. Twenty-eight experienced civilian women pilots volunteered to take those ferrying jobs. They formed the country’s first female squadron late summer 1942. To read more go to : https://waspmuseum.org/
Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including eight battleships, and over 300 airplanes. More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded. The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.
The Grateful Reader Review by Dorothy Schwab
Audrey Fitzgerald Coltrane has spent her whole life flying and plans to own her own airfield-in Texas. In 1941 as the war in Europe had begun, Audrey heads to Oahu, Hawaii, to train military pilots. Audrey has already decided her path will not lead to matrimony and babies-she has other plans, big plans. “Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.” This story of Audrey and the other women pilots that fly and train the men that will ultimately defend our country is amazing and surprising. The amazing amount of courage and vulnerability involved to accomplish what they did and so surprising, but sad, that it took until the late 1970’s for the Women Airforce Service Pilots to be recognized. Read for yourselves, the history of the WASP Museum in Sweetwater, Texas, and refresh the events of December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor. I found the history of the WASP as compelling as the story of Audrey and her fellow pilots. The Flight Girls is an enlightening novel; one that also inspires women to follow dreams and seek the freedom to fly and soar like a bird.
“What I learned from the women of the WASP…is that there is always a breeze. We can either hunker down and hide from it, or we can spread our wings and fly.” Noelle Salazar