Pen pals: I’ll Be Seeing You

I didn’t know that I was giving TBYL Reviewer Kate Barber such a uniquely constructed book when I handed over I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan (Harlequin) but by all accounts this novel is something new – both in its subject matter and in how it was put together – and it certainly seems to have won Kate over…

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It’s January 1943 and the war is in full swing… normally a book that started that way would have sent me running, but from the first page of I’ll Be Seeing You I was completely hooked, so much so that I had it finished it in two sittings!

I'll be seeing youSuzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan share with us the story of two women, complete strangers, living on opposite sides of America, who, by a twist of fate begin to correspond with one another through letters. In the beginning, the only thing they have in common is that their loved ones are fighting in the war.

Rita Vincenzo – the ‘Garden Witch’ – lives in Iowa and has been married for 21 years to Sal, a professor. She has a wicked sense of humour, a love of gardening and abundant generosity. Both her 18 year old son and husband have gone to fight in the war. In contrast, on the other side of the country, in Massachusetts, lives high-society Gloria, aged 23, 7 months pregnant and mother to a 2 year old boy. With her husband also at war, she is bored and lonely. To ‘pass the time’ Gloria attends a ladies group on Wednesday afternoons in which, on one occasion, they are  asked to choose a name of a stranger out of a hat to correspond with if they began to ‘feel lonely or desperate’.

Over the next three years the two women regularly write, forging a true and beautiful friendship. Fighting their own separate battles of loneliness, temptation and desperation, their humour , honesty and in the end, deep affection for one another helps them get through the toughest time in both their lives. They share gossip, recipes, remedies for ailments, gardening tips and their histories, passions, fears and worries in the time of war.

Their journey sees them both facing incredible hardships and loneliness but through their bond and a bit of ‘girl power’, their friendship grows and is unwavering.

This book is made all the more remarkable by the fact that the two authors themselves have never met. Suzanne was blogging and connecting with other writers (no ladies group on a Wednesday here) and came across Loretta. They started writing to each other, a friendship was forged, a year later they talked on the phone. By writing emails back and forth to each other the book was formed. The method of of construction of course mirrored the story of Rita and Gloria, as their friendship grew despite never having met.

I have to say, I loved this book. It is beautifully written and outlines two very different characters and different styles of writing. The humour and honesty is lovely, the characters engaging. Get this book, make yourself a cuppa and nestle into your favourite reading chair…

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You can find out more about I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan here…

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