History comes to life in The Postmistress, a novel that takes readers back to the early 1940s, when the war raging in Europe showed no end in sight and America was on the brink of joining the fray. Through the eyes of three very different women, author Sarah Blake traces America’s journey from willful ignorance of the fight overseas to eventual understanding.
Emma is a young newlywed in Franklin, Massachusetts, searching for security and the sense of family she has always been missing. For her, the war becomes all too real when a local tragedy prompts her husband, the town doctor, to go abroad in order to provide medical aid to the wounded and the dying. Each day she listens to dispatches on the radio from Frankie—a young reporter in Britain, desperate to give her fellow Americans a sense of the tragedy and horror that she witnesses daily—and brings a letter for her husband to Iris, the local postmistress. Ironically, it is the ravages of war, rending countries and families apart, that ultimately join Frankie’s story with those of Emma and Iris, each woman sharing a part of the others’ sorrows and losses, and each lessening the burden of the horrible truths they all carry.
It is with graceful tenderness that Blake provides readers with this heartbreaking examination of the devastation of war. Her tenure as a poet serves her well, with each sentence painstakingly crafted, her prose packing an impressive emotional punch that belies its unassuming and gentle tone. Much as the spirited Frankie seeks to do throughout the novel, Blake manages to give a face to a war in which so many were lost, all the while seeking to restore order and sense to a world mired by devastation and sorrow that defy easy explanation. More than just a novel about love and loss, The Postmistress is an expansive epic about the stories we tell and the secrets we guard—all as we search for the truth, sometimes blindly, sometimes bravely. This is a thoughtful novel, quiet in its catharsis, and best read with a box of tissues on hand.
Stephenie Harrison writes from Nashville.
Read an interview with Sarah Blake about The Postmistress.