In a little-known footnote of history, mothers of sons killed in World War I received reparations of sorts. Those whose sons’ bodies were buried in France were invited by the U.S. government to visit their graves in Meuse-Argonne.
So begins a journey for Cora, a widow from Maine who has lost her only child. She does not take this journey alone, however; she is joined by Bobbie Olson, an aristocrat from Boston; Katie, an Irish immigrant; Minnie, a poor Jewish woman from New York; and Wilhelmina, a woman who has a very tentative grip on reality.
Although these women come from decidedly different backgrounds, the loss of their sons brings them a commonality that nothing else could probably do. Though all these women carry sorrow in their hearts, they are nevertheless excited and intrigued to be taking this unexpected journey across the ocean, and perhaps most of all, they feel a deep sense of pride in representing their sons and what they have done to help end the war.
As their journey takes them closer to the battle site where their sons are buried, the mood takes on a decidedly different tone. Each woman in her own way struggles with whether in fact the ultimate sacrifice made by their sons was worth it — in both personal and patriotic terms.
Though examining a particular point in U.S. history, this novel is a thought-provoking treatise on the meaning of war, loss, love, and patriotism.
Vintage/Random House; ISBN 978-0-30794-880-9; $15.95.