Friday, September 2, 2011

Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin

The time is during World War II. Helen Carlisle has become a war widow. Her husband Jim was killed in the Pacific. It has been a year since his death. Jim's parents have provided a place for her and two year old Jay-Jay. In return for that provision they have made some very unhealthy demands upon her.
Vic Llewellyn has wanted Helen as his wife for years. Disappointed when she married Jim instead, he is after her again.
But Ray Novak catches her eye. His job training B-17 pilots allows his to spend time with Helen. As the two fall in love we learn facts that had been hidden. Jim had been an abusive husband. The town reveres Jim as a war hero but Helen has had to live with hiding his true character.
Live gets even more difficult for Helen when Ray decides to go to Europe to fly bombing runs. Being a pastor at his core, he needs to prove to himself and others that he can do it. After thirty successive runs, Ray volunteers for more. His plane goes down and Ray is reported lost. When his dog tags are found, he is presumed dead.
Helen accidentally causes a fire in her bungalow and she and Jay-Jay must live with the Carlisle's. To her horror she finds out Jim's dad is a wife beater too. When Jay-Jay angrily hits a little girl, Helen knows she must get out of that house. He only answer seems to be Vic. She doesn't love him but he says he loves her and will take good care of her.
A marriage is planned but before it occurs, Helen learns of Vic's true character. How can she marry a liar?

All of these events going wrong in Helen's life may seem a bit much but it “works” in this novel. The story portrays the dilemma of a young widow with a toddler to raise under war time conditions. I would have preferred that Helen be a stronger character. In my mind she made some foolish mistakes. But this was a different era and certainly a different society than today.
Some of the novel is based on actual events during that time. One is the explosion at the ammunition magazine at Port Chicago in July of 1944. Many of the 320 killed were African-American sailors. When many of the African-American survivors refused to go back to work because of safety issues, they were convicted of mutiny and sentenced to long prison terms. The publicity over this and similar cases eventually led the Navy to change its policies, beginning to desegregate its forces in February of 1946.
I had to go online to find out the facts of this event in the novel. I would have preferred that readers be told which parts of the novel were based on true historical events. The reader is encouraged to visit the author's website,, to find out the history behind her novels, but that was at the end of the book. I want to know that information at the beginning of the novel.
A discussion guide at the end of the book makes this a good choice for a reading group. It is the third in the “Wings of Glory” series. The first two books are about Ray's brothers and their war adventures. I have not read the others and found this to be a great book on its own.

Sarah Sundin received the 2011 Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and her second novel, A Memory Between Us, is a finalist for an Inspirational Readers' choice Award.  Her stories are inspired by her great-uncle who flew with the U. S. Eighth Air Force in England during World War II.  Sarah lives in California with her husband and three children.

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I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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