Reviewer Karen Dahood : Karen lives in Tucson, AZ. After 35 years as a writer for businesses and nonprofits, she has turned to writing mysteries,the subtext of which addresses ageism, unpreparedness for aging, and America's wealth of experience and wisdom. Learn more about eldersleuth Sophie George at the Website Moxie Cosmos; Making Sense of Life Through Writing.
Author: Laura Lynn Ashworth
The lingo-laced letters in this historically significant, personal collection (subtitled “A True WW II Teenage Love Story”) swept me right back to Archie comics and the strips “Boots and Her Buddies” and “Freckles and His Friends.” For anyone ages 16-20, the years 1943-1945 were built on a foundation of shared adolescent friendships, and time passed slowly as kids struggled to get their feet on the ground in such diverse places as a Chicago picture frame factory and the U.S. S. Signet, a minesweeper patrolling the Pacific.
Thousands of miles apart, Loretta and Sal were romantically linked by neighborhood news and the era’s popular music with lyrics that helped them express their hopes, fears, and dreams. Salvatore, Italian, and Loretta, Polish, grew up in the same “corner” of a North Chicago and frequented the same haunts before he signed up for the Navy. Based at San Francisco, he was shipped out to Hawaii and the Marshall Islands before heading for Iwo Jima. Loretta remained at home with her family, worked where women were needed, and made evenings bearable by partying with her girlfriends. She stayed out late and learned to drink beer, but became increasingly devoted to her absent “navvy.” In the same period, Sal fantasized their future, reading and rereading her words.
These pen pals show their vulnerabilities in between jokes and innuendo; they were charged with sexuality but held back by uncertainty. The longer they are apart, the more often they beg for photographs, ask personal questions, and confess their growing attachment. They have remarkable dreams “on each other” and start to make plans.
Their sweet and intelligent letters reflect that times are changing. He wants her to learn to cook but she mentions she likes earning money and that Captain Marvel has taken on a female partner (probably Bill Batson’s twin sister Mary). He cannot explain the conflicts, only sometimes describes the sea, but always promises to return home to hold her close. (Their mutual love of dancing segues nicely into imaginary lovemaking.) As Loretta spreads her wings, Sal increasingly yearns for the familiarity of Chi-town.
This recently found attic treasure makes poignant testimony to long distance courtship during World War II and to the vitality of letter-writing. It made me long for communication like it was before cheap phones calls, computers, and TV. There’s much more that could be done with these letters that try so hard to remain cheerful and yet are curiously marked by references to domestic violence – he will break her neck, and imagines her hitting him with a rolling pin. He repeatedly threatens spankings. (Foreplay?) An entire novel could be written around this relationship (and perhaps give us an epilogue). Here it’s presented chronologically as raw material – it is what it is -- all the more powerfully playing on our emotions.