he World War II era was filled with turmoil and sorrow for everyone involved. In Ann Howard Creel's debut novel, The Magic of Ordinary Days, she convincingly relates how life on the home front could be just as unsettling as the tumult on the battlefields. For Olivia Dunne, times were particularly trying as she worked through her own emotional upheaval, first dealing with the death of her beloved mother and her alienation from her minister father, then discovering that she is pregnant after a careless act of passion. To maintain her family's respectable reputation, Olivia is forced to leave her home in Denver to enter into an arranged marriage with Ray Singleton, a farmer who lives on the prairies of southern Colorado. Her dreams of becoming an archaeologist are dashed as she sets her sights on a future of being a wife and mother.
The Singleton farm is remote, as is its owner. Ray, although a kind man, is used to living on his own and has difficulty dealing with another person in his home. It's up to Olivia to establish her own routines, as Ray returns to the fields to work his crops of sugar beets, onions and beans. The ladies of the community church try to include Olivia in their activities. But they are reserved, and she knows they realize she is carrying another man's child. It isn't until the arrival of the Japanese farm workers from a nearby internment camp that Olivia finds friendship in the form of two teenaged sisters, Lorelei and Rose Umahara. Like Olivia, the sisters must learn to adapt to their confinement while their passion for living seeks other outlets.
In The Magic of Ordinary Days, Creel has captured a unique page in history as she weaves a tale inspired by actual events. She includes many little-known details of the Japanese-American internment camps and German POW camps that were scattered throughout the country. Her use of the desolate, dusty prairie setting of southern Colorado echoes the desperation felt by her character, Olivia. As a former resident of Colorado, I well recognized the small farm communities of La Junta, Rocky Ford and Trinidad.
This is a gentle but powerful novel, combining a story of bittersweet love with a poignant account of the journey toward self-realization and acceptance.
Sharon Galligar Chance is a book reviewer in Wichita Falls, Texas.