The Wartime Sisters
Publisher: St Martin's Press
Publication Date: 01/22/2019
My Rating: 5 Stars + Jan Q&A Interview With the Author
Top Books of 2019 For fans of Lilac Girls, the next powerful novel from the author of Goodreads Choice Awards semi-finalist The Two-Family House about two sisters working in a WWII armory, each with a deep secret. "Loigman’s strong voice and artful prose earn her a place in the company of Alice Hoffman and Anita Diamant, whose readers should flock to this wondrous new book." —Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale
"The Wartime Sisters shows the strength of women on the home front: to endure, to fight, and to help each other survive.” —Jenna Blum, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Lost Family and Those Who Save Us
Two estranged sisters, raised in Brooklyn and each burdened with her own shocking secret, are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.
"One of my favorite books of the year." —Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Dollhouse and The Masterpiece
"A stirring tale of loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of long-buried secrets.” —Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of The Edge of Lost and Sold on a Monday
Acclaimed author, Lynda Cohen Loigman returns following her bestseller The Two-Family House (loved) with her second novel which will blow you away—THE WARTIME SISTERS has it all! The author most definitely knows her way around complex families.
As I mention below and will reiterate here, one of the best historical fiction books I have read.
Not only is it rich in place and history, but the character development is also superb! Best of all it reads like a domestic suspense thriller with all the mystery and intrigue. Fans of historical fiction, as well as domestic suspense, will devour this brilliantly written story. I would love to see a movie based on the novel.
Let’s dive into THE WARTIME SISTERS.
As the book opens, it is Brooklyn, New York 1919-1932.
We meet a Jewish family of four. Ruth is the oldest daughter and Millie is three years younger. At an early age, there is a distinct difference between the two girls causing conflict and tension in the household. The sisters possess opposite temperaments. Some terrific juicy sibling rivalry here. (I have a sis three years younger myself, and we are total opposites—can relate).
We hear from the POVs of Millie and Ruth, the two sisters in Part One. Later in Part Two and Three, we hear from two additional female characters: Lillian and Arietta. Both from different walks of life; however, all come together. Four distinct voices.
Ruth is smart, studious, and well behaved. It appeared, as though, no matter how much she excelled —her parents never took notice, especially the mom. Ruth loved to stay home with her books.
Millie on the other hand does not receive good grades and never seemed to finish anything. She was always the center of attention, especially with the opposite sex. She was pretty, popular, flighty, and impulsive. A social butterfly (as why she relates with the mom).
Ruth found herself having to clean up her younger sister’s messes. However, the mother seemed to always take Millie’s side. She used her beauty to attract and get her way. Her mother is attempting to live through her daughter.
The mom is all about appearances. What others think. She wants her younger daughter to marry well and be a part of society. Marry rich. Of course, Ruth was not interested in parties, and her mom knows this. She had a brain and wanted to use it. The dad usually took the backseat when it came to a stand and kept a low profile. Not to cause waves with his wife. As the girls become teens, there were more hurtful and resentful comparisons.
The sisters grow apart over the years, and Ruth is excited to move away (1942-1943) to Springfield, MA during World War II with her with her husband, Arthur. Finally, she could escape her sister’s shadow and drama, and find her own life with her personal friends. There was a friendly community of women and Ruth was determined to fit in and leave her problems of Brooklyn behind.
She soon finds her place with some well to do women, a great job as a bookkeeper, and now a wife of a well-known scientist with twin daughters. A beautiful home. They were intelligent women, and they respected her. She even learned how to dress, socialize, and be everything her sister never was. What would their mom think now if she were alive? They turned out the opposite of how their mother had planned.
Arthur, Ruth’s husband, spent his days at the armory in laboratories and development meetings, perfecting the weapons he would never have to fire. They lived on the side with the beautiful gardens and grounds, outdoor events, and elegant homes with the other officers and families.
Springfield Armory was like two separate worlds. The pristine, sanctuary of the Armory Square and the manufacturing center across the street. Federal Street – the manufacturing side housing the buildings, research, distribution, and jobs. Thousands of civilians worked there and later she would attain a job in the factory for her sister.
However, life had not turned out as well for younger sister Millie.
After the parents’ death, Millie winds up marrying a man (Lenny) which was/is a loser. Then she had a son Michael. There is much Ruth does not know about Millie. (no communicating in this family). After her husband goes missing, she tracks down her older sister, Ruth. They begin communicating by letter. She is not comfortable receiving a hand out; however, she has nowhere else to turn. She has no money and no means to raise her son.
Ruth is not crazy about her sister coming to stay with her family. After all, she spent her entire life trying to escape the shadow of her sister. However, there are secrets she has not shared. Things are tense with both living in the same household. They were never close. And that "ring" which is a troubling subject. Now, Ruth must worry about how to explain her to her friends.
Millie shows up with a battered suitcase and is very poor. Her sister of the other hand lives a grand lifestyle. How will these two find common ground and mend their relationship?
Millie is very intimidated by Ruth. A turn around from earlier childhood. The officers and their families live on the side of the street in Armory Square. She could not even comprehend how her sister could live like this and she and Michael had nothing. She would be working on the production line assembling triggers (which she is thankful for the job), while her older sister is in the administrative building.
The country was at war; however, there was a troubling war going on between the two sisters.
As the author mentions in her notes, she saw this setting as two different places, much like the sisters in the novel. The contrast is striking. Physically close, yet with distinct and opposite temperaments. This crucial piece of inspiration influenced her creation of the sister’s narrative.
What adds even more intrigue to the novel is the introduction of two additional female characters.
Lillian Walsh moved to the armory in the winter of 1940, when her husband took over as the new commanding officer. She is highly respected. Lillian and Ruth soon become friends. They share a love of their children and their lives, and she soon takes Ruth under her wing introducing her to other women and proper fashion, etc. Lillian did not care about her being Jewish. She believed that they were all fighting for the same country. She even helped her get a job as a bookkeeper saying she was the smartest women she knew. Ruth loved the attention.
Until her sister came into their lives. Stirring up old resentments, and with her visit, she brings an unwanted problem from both their past. Now both their lives are in danger as well and all those around them. Plus, she must contend with the town gossip, Grace’s interference and competing with her sister once again with her new friends.
Lillian (a great character) has a back story which adds much depth to the story. We also meet another distinct voice, Arietta (a cook and a singer). She is rough around the edges, and some of the gossipy women did not like her, nor Millie— both women, befriend Millie in her time of need.
The women form an unbreakable bond within the community on the home front, while surviving the struggles of their past and present. At the same time, Ruth and Millie may just learn something about themselves.
Lynda has written a stunning heartwarming story of family, and one of the best historical fiction accounts I have read. I was immersed in all the history and behind the scenes notes.
As I have mentioned in my upcoming reader’s note (Q&A) about the author and THE WARTIME SISTERS:
Beautifully written and profoundly moving, the characters indeed "come to life" through the pages of history and time. From dark long-buried family secrets, combined with the emotional joy, betrayal, regrets, loss, and complexities of sisterhood, family, and friendships— we find an essential link between these relationships, community of women, and the raging war. Women coming together to form an unbreakable bond to survive the turbulent times.
A perfect blending of fact and fiction—inspired by actual events, yet the novel possesses a strong "suspense vibe" which pulls you in and grips you to the conclusion. Historical fans, as well as domestic suspense readers, will find this one "unputdownable" — pulled in by the lives of these two sisters and the women surrounding them at the home front Armory during WWII. Much to like here and set in the US!
If you are looking to get into historical fiction, this is THE BOOK. It reads like domestic suspense with superb character development, mystery, and intrigue.
Lynda shares with us her in-depth research, her journey, and the inspiration behind this emotional and riveting must-read tale of two sisters— rich in history, time, and character. As you read this heartfelt story, you will come to realize, "Sometimes our greatest battles are the ones fought closest to home."
I hope you will take the time to read the exclusive "story behind the story," the history, view the extensive photo gallery and the heartwarming stories of these courageous women (via her website) and author’s notes in the book.
The author should be commended for her extensive research and lyrical writing. I enjoyed immensely reading the inspiration behind the book and viewing all the photos. Lynda, your attention to detail does not go unnoticed.
An ideal book choice for book clubs and further discussions. Some fabulous characters. I am a colossal research geek, and all of this further enhanced my reading experience!
Stay tuned for my Q&A for more fun "behind the scenes" personal facts about the author. I loved THE WARTIME SISTERS and strongly recommend. I am sure you will agree, she was born to write this story! I hope you will enjoy as much as I did. Cannot wait to see what is next.
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and #NetGalley for an advanced reading copy.
That Inspired the Story
"With a perceptive lens on the challenges of whittling away grievances that have built up over years, The Wartime Sisters is a powerful pressure cooker of a family drama."―Booklist
“With measured, lucid prose, Loigman tells a moving story of women coming together in the face of difficulties, both personal and global, and doing anything to succeed.”
“Loigman’s second novel portrays a sampling of the women whose roles were pivotal during the wartime manufacturing boom…[and] highlights historic advances for women.” —Kirkus Reviews
“The Wartime Sisters is a heartfelt and poignant portrait of the complex bond between sisters, how our childhood roles define us as adults, and what dire consequences that can have, especially in times of war. The Wartime Sisters shows the strength of women on the home front: to endure, to fight, and to help each other survive.” ―Jenna Blum, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Lost Family and Those Who Save Us
“Fresh off her stunning debut The Two Family House, Lynda Cohen Loigman returns with The Wartime Sisters, an evocative home front tale set against the backdrop of the Springfield Armory during World War II. Through stoic, stubborn Ruth and her beautiful younger sister Millie, Loigman skillfully chronicles the complex sibling bonds and rivalries, the secrets we keep and truths that set us free. Loigman’s strong voice and artful prose earn her a place in the company of Alice Hoffman and Anita Diamant, whose readers should flock to this wondrous new book.” ―Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale
“A riveting tale of sibling rivalry and the magnetic dissonance of family, filled with heart-stopping truths that are both tender and wise. One of my favorite books of the year.”
―Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece
“In her latest novel, Loigman once again deftly explores the complexities, heartbreaks, and fierce endurance of family bonds. Even amid the great tension and fears of the Second World War, The Wartime Sisters reminds the reader that the harshest battles are often fought here at home, with those we love and are meant to trust most. A stirring tale of loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of long-buried secrets.”
―Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of The Edge of Lost and Sold on a Monday
“Complex and intricately woven, The Wartime Sisters is truly everything I love in a novel. Beautifully written, rich in historical detail, and anchored by two strong women who must reconcile their past―and their secrets―in order to survive. Loigman is a master storyteller and this novel had me from its very first page.” ―Alyson Richman, international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours
“The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman is a powerful and moving story of secrets, friendship, and sisterhood. In Ruth and Millie, whom we follow from their childhood in Brooklyn to their entwined lives as young mothers at a wartime armory in Springfield, Loigman masterfully portrays the complicated sister relationship. Beautifully written, emotionally charged, and rich with historical detail, this novel, and these sisters, will stay with me long after I turned the last page.” ―Jillian Cantor, author of Margot and The Lost Letter
Q&A Interview with the Author
THE TWO-FAMILY HOUSE
"An emotional but dreamy novel that...will transport you far, far away from your next dreary Monday morning. You may do a lot of sobbing, but don't worry, you'll be smiling by the end." ―Bustle,
"12 Spring Break Reads To Help You Escape Normal Life"
**Buzzfeed, "14 Of The Most Buzzed-About Books"
**Popsugar, "6 Books You Should Read"
"A novel you won't be able to put down." ―Diane Chamberlain, New York Times bestselling author
Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born, minutes apart. The mothers are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night. When the storm passes, everyone seems to have gotten what they wanted, but the truth is not that simple. The consequences of that night, of one misguided choice, shape the course of the families – friendships unravel, marriages change and even the sacred bonds between mothers and children are tested. No one knows why, and no one can stop it, but everyone’s lives have been shaped by that evening.
From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, longing, love, and mystery. Buy the Book
About the Author
Photo Credit: Randy Matusow
Lynda Cohen Loigman grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She received a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College and a law degree from Columbia Law School. Lynda practiced trusts and estates law in New York City for eight years before moving out of the city to raise her two children with her husband. She wrote The Two-Family House while she was a student of the Writing Institute at Sarah Lawrence College. The Two-Family House was chosen by Goodreads as the best book of the month for March 2016 and was a nominee for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards in Historical Fiction. Lynda’s second novel, The Wartime Sisters, will be published on January 22, 2019.