Author: E.E. Smith
ISBN: 0979859913
Publisher: Hannover House

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The title of award-winning playwright, E. E. Smith's new book, Boardinghouse Stew, may have you thinking it is some sort of cookbook. However, as the author relates, it is part of a phrase describing the uncertainty of World War II -- "as unpredictable as boardinghouse stew."

Through the eyes of, Eileen (the author), I was taken on a journey in the summer of 1943, when she was 11 years old. Eileen took a job as a cook and housekeeper at a boardinghouse (the proprietor preferred the term "guesthouse") and became part of a family with all those that lived there.

I learned more about this time in our country's history by reading Boardinghouse Stew, than I from any of my high school history classes. Rationing books, blackout curtains, air raid drills and victory gardens were terms I had vague knowledge of, and through the storytelling of Ms. Smith, I had a deeper understanding and a sad realization of hideous "relocation centers" our country created to imprison Japanese/American families. They might as well have called them concentration camps, because that is what they were.

This autobiographical book paints a picture of the six occupants of the boardinghouse, Mrs. Mumson, the lady of the house and Eileen. Each member of the household had his or her own dreams and secrets that Eileen could hear through the swinging doors to the kitchen, hung on "rusty hinges that never seemed to close." There were three women and three men living in an outwardly proper and respectable existence in Mrs. Mumson's boardinghouse, whom she liked to refer to as her "girls" and her "boys." There they were. Iris, the ambitious air raid warden. Margaret the "voice with a smile" telephone operator. Pasty, the bombshell stenographer. Charismatic Teddy, who always seemed to know someone who owed him a favor. Doc, the intern who was clumsily smitten with Patsy. Howard, the self-important cannery supervisor. As eclectic a mix of characters as you'd ever want to come across. Ms. Smith's Boardinghouse Stew weaves a tale of how these very different people worked together to help each other through many ups and downs, as they became a family.

Ms. Smith included many photos throughout the book, which further painted a picture of this historical time in our country's past. I giggled at the concoctions Eileen prepared for meals and the reactions of the guests. Eileen stretched the rationing stamps of the whole household by utilizing the wartime recipes and suggestions of the newspaper's, "Miss Kitchen" column. Just imagine a scrumptious looking homemade cherry ice cream that was actually made with beets.

I highly recommend Boardinghouse Stew. It was an enjoyable read that I had trouble putting down, leaving me with a desire to know more about the characters' lives after the last page.

 Click Here To Purchase Boardinghouse Stew