The town of Bay Harbor waits for the return of their fathers, sons, brothers, and fiancés from World War II. While they begin to enjoy the return of freedoms lost through rationing and the war effort, they gradually welcome the men and face the aftermath of battle with them. Some return unable to face the lives they once led, while others come home to build lives they never started. Through tragedy and renewal readers can join in the dynamics of the people of the town and their relationships. Will the town ever be the same again?
I enjoyed this story and the multifaceted characters Ruth created. Her portrayal of the small town with all the uncomfortable transparency of living really drew me in. The characters’ dramas tantalized and made me want to hear more. Their motivations and transgressions pulled me through the tale wondering what would come of it and who would win out in the end.
The structure of the story and the tragedy of the ending confused me a little after the tense but quiet life of the town before everything came unraveled. The author took on a brave task with the myriad characters and their personal dramas, mostly succeeding at separating their individual threads of the tapestry. Throughout, I wondered if Anna Lee really was the main character. Sometimes it seemed as if the book had no main character, though the ending focused on Anna Lee and her impressions. I also felt a little bit of a rush toward the ending to cram in the remainder of Anna Lee’s life before her return to the town. Her experiences in Tallahassee and beyond could have made their own book, but I think a time jump would have made more sense. Sporadic passive writing also added some discontinuity to the narrative.
Whether you love small-town life or hate it, Ruth’s tale of a changing society in the confines of a sleepy Florida town will pull you in and make you feel part of their life and dramas.