by Julie HaleFebruary, 2007
Johns' appealing and well-crafted debut novel is set during World War II. Walt Dunmore, a Canadian gunner, is flying a mission when his plane is hit over Newfoundland. Only Walt and his crewmate Alistair Clark survive when the plane crashes, but Alistair eventually succumbs to his injuries. Meanwhile, Walt's wife, Dottie, tries to cope with the difficulties of life during wartime. She's lonely for her husband, worried about the future and drawn to a local farmhand. When Walt comes home from the war, he tells Alistair's wife about the crash, and the experience binds the two families together. Along with Alistair's widow and her baby girl, Walt and his family move from rural Canada to Chicago in hopes of finding a better life. As the years pass, Walt's son falls in love with Alistair's daughter. The two of them come of age in an unsettled era marked by a different kind of war the conflict in Vietnam and both must make their own choices about relationships, politics and the future. As the characters mature, they're faced with secrets from the past that alter their perceptions of the world forever. Marked by well-paced action and complex characters, Johns' novel has all the ingredients of great literary fiction. A reading group guide is available online at www.bloomsburyusa.com.