Sunday, October 6, 2019

Soldier Boy: The WWII Letters of Donald G. Reimer

During this past week, I’ve avidly read the e-book entitled Soldier Boy: The WWII Letters of Donald G. Reimer. A fellow blogger—Cynthia Reimer—discovered the letters a few years ago in her grandparents’ attic. Along with her dad’s letters home she also discovered letters that had been sent to him. He’d kept them and at one point during the war had sent them back home for safekeeping.

Thus, these letters vividly show us what was happening—between January 1943 and late 1946—on the home front as well as in the boot camps in the United States and the jungles of the Pacific.

Cynthia sorted these handwritten letters, added transition; clear explanations for what was happening month by month in the European and Pacific Theaters of War; and entertaining information on the camps her father was in and on the radio shows, songs, and celebrities who were popular at the time.

For me, this book Soldier Boy was a revelation. When the war began, I was in kindergarten and in 3rd grade when it ended. I knew what was happening from what adults said, from the movie newsreels, and from the newspaper headlines.

Also, every week, Mom gave me our ration books and I bought groceries at the corner store across our grade school. The owner had pinned a large world map pinned to the wall behind the cash register. As I waited for the bus, he’d point out what was happening in both theaters of war. He made the war and the world come alive for me.

Given that background, I’ve read many books about WWII. Most historians, I’ve discovered, research the battles, the strategy, the lay of the land, the troop numbers, troop movement, the death toll, and the names of the men making the decisions. I brought that background to Cynthia’s book.

Here’s why I say her book was a revelation to me. The letters didn’t describe generals or strategy. Nor did Donald Reimer try to explain why the war was happening or why he enlisted. Instead he shared with his family at home what was happening with him in each camp the army sent him to.

Thus, this past week, I met one man—an ordinary soldier who became part of the 485th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Battalion. With him, I spent day after day, marching, cleaning guns, eating in the mess hall—and sometimes there wasn’t enough food, learning to recognize all the different planes that might fly over the battlefield, writing home, getting lonely, going on a three-day passes and sitting in the audience at some radio shows, and moving from one camp to another.

Truthfully I never knew there were that many boot camps in the United States. Nor did I know how many months the men trained for war. Nor had I ever thought about the tedium of waiting for the next letter. The next march. The next battle.

These letters introduced me to one anti-aircraft soldier who felt he had a duty to his country. Mostly, it seemed to me while reading, he lived at peace within himself. He was sure of what he had done: enlist. He was sure that he was in the right place at the right time. I believe that his letters reveal him to be a man of peace.

Yet he ended up on the islands of Leyte and Okinawa. In his letters, he doesn’t complain or grouse or say, “Why me?” He simply lives in the present. Longing for it all to end and to eat a Christmas dinner with his family. But not until he’d done his work.

If you decide to read this book—and I do so hope you will—please also leave a comment/review on Amazon for other readers to find. Thank you.


Anti-aircraft artillery from Wikipedia

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Living in the Present

Most often when I’ve posted, I’ve written about the past—my childhood, my life in the convent, my small part in social activism, my writing process. Today, I want to write about what is presently happening in my life. Perhaps that’s where most of my future postings will take place: in the present.

First, let me share a decision I’ve made: I plan to post every other week from now on. That’s because I’m simplifying my life and accepting my energy level and also the amount of time writing now takes.

Second, to dwell in the past for a few moments, I want to admit that the last eight months have been somewhat difficult. I’ve struggled with some health problems and also with a malaise that has kept me from enjoying my usual optimism. Since the death of two friends (in May and June), I’ve found myself mulling my own mortality.

For years, I’ve made schedules about the time I’d need to write all the books that are in my heart and head. In the past eight months, I’ve accepted that those books may never be written. That is to say, I suppose, that finally, and irrevocably, I have accepted that I have little control over the future. What will be, will be.

So where does that leave me? Right here in the present. Enjoying the rain shower today. Enjoying Maggie’s leap from the coffee table to my lap as she settles down to purr her way into her morning nap. Enjoying porridge with walnuts and figs for breakfast. Enjoying reading P. J. Tracy’s latest mystery.

Enjoying and feeling grateful at the same time. Grateful that my compromised vision stays steady. Grateful that I can afford to heat the house in the winter and cool it in the summer. Grateful that Pat and Gennie, who remain with me in Oneness, chose me as a friend. So much for which to be grateful: My family. A long life. The cats with whom I’ve lived. A passion for writing. Friendship.

I hope this posting does not sound sad or dismal. I’m neither. I’m letting go of the past eight months with their ups and downs. That is to say, I am turning away from the closed window of the past and turning toward the now open window that beckons me.

Beyond that new window is a new writing project. Writing fills me with great energy. It motivates me. More importantly, it is, for me, prayer. That is to say, when I write, I live in the present and in presence of Oneness. So I am eager to begin my next book.

It is to be another memoir and already the words are giving themselves to me. The words and the story. The memories and the emotions. The people who have touched my life with good and the happenings that sometimes befuddled me but always worked out to good.

This coming week, I will tie up some loose ends from the past eight months. Then, I will begin the memoir. In the next six weeks, I have one doctor’s appointment each week. So my health remains an issue. But there are four other weekdays for me to write. I tell you now that there is nothing more satisfying for me than crafting a good sentence.

So this is the present. In future postings, I’ll be sharing with you what’s happening with the memoir, with my health, with my reading, with my friends. So much to share with all of you who have given me such support since 2011 when I first began to blog.

Thank you, ever and always. Peace.

PS: The photo is of me in kindergarten. I was known as "Bright Eyes."

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Time after Time: A Novel Set in Maine

Last week’s posting announced the publication of the historical novel—The Reluctant Spy. This week, I’m doing a 180° flip-flop into contemporary times to write a review of a novel by a fellow blogger: Rian.

She has written a wonderfully warm and gentle novel—Time afterTime—that became a page-turner for me. It is so delightful that it totally took my mind away from physical discomfort as I iced my left knee each morning and evening the past couple of weeks.

The setting of the novel is Maine—specifically a lighthouse there which Annie, the main character, has bought after the death of her husband. His death draws her into a reassessment of her life and her hopes for the future. Putting aside the concern of her extended family, she moves to Maine to discover who she is now that she is no longer a wife.

In Maine, Annie meets a cast of characters who bring new interests and excitement into her life. There’s Abner who introduces her to the cove and beach, the winds and tides. There’s Jimmie who brings laughter and . . . delicious meals . . . into the lighthouse. And perhaps, just perhaps, there’s a ghost or two from the maritime past of Maine.

There’s the Bed and Breakfast nearby, the Bookstore in town, the remodeler who values the history of the lighthouse. And . . . there’s the diary, hidden for decades.

What drew me into this novel is the humanity of the characters. I normally read mysteries, by writers such as Louise Penny, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Deborah Crombie, Anne Perry, Charles Todd, Charles Finch, P. J. Tracy, Alan Bradley, and the list goes on. All these writers draw me into their stories with suspenseful plots and finely drawn characters, but often the characters may be just a little eccentric, just a little different from my next-door neighbor.

But in Time after Time, the characters are ones I’ve met throughout my life. They are warm, interesting people whose lives have the same ups and downs I’m experiencing. They remind me of characters in Anna Quindlen’s novels.

The story is what publishers call a cozy. It takes place in a small community in which the inhabitants care about and enjoy one another. In this, it reminds of a book that Arkansas Patti, another blogger, reviewed a few years back: Out to Pasture by Effie Leland Wilder.

On the basis of Patti’s review, I read that book and the four that followed. That book made me feel good. Made me feel that all works out to good in the end and that just around the next corner there is an enjoyable surprise waiting for us.

Time after Time did the same thing for me. It made me smile, laugh, cry, and know the deep, down goodness of humanity. I highly recommend it to you.

If you do decide to read the novel and enjoy it as much as I did, please leave a comment for Rian to read. That’s such a delightful part of publishing a book: reading readers’ comments!