Reviewed by Sara Hodon
Blue Skies Tomorrow
by Sarah Sundin
Paperback: 432 pages, August 1, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-0800734237
The battles of World War II weren’t only fought in Europe and Japan—many families were battling for survival on the home front. Young wives and mothers struggled to raise their children as their husbands (and often sole breadwinners) went off to war, unsure if they would ever be reunited. Parents mourned children lost in battle. Survival, by any means necessary, became the driving force for this generation. Blue Skies Tomorrow by Sarah Sundin, a love story set during the turbulent years of World War II, offers a glimpse into this world—a time that seems far removed, but in fact not so different, from present day, where survival and keeping the family together was top priority for so many people.
Blue Skies Tomorrow focuses on the budding romance between Lt Raymond Novak, a training instructor for Army B-17 pilots whose real dream is to enter the ministry, and Helen Carlisle, a war widow who is struggling to raise her son, Jay-Jay, and also put some painful memories from the past behind her. Both Ray and Helen face the pressures of meeting the expectations of their respective families while also trying to chart their own courses and live their own lives. Helen, in particular, is in a difficult situation. She and her son live with her in-laws, the Carlisles, and as the story progresses, it becomes clear that perhaps it’s not the best environment for either of them. This discovery taints the memory of her late husband, Jack, a war hero who is revered by everyone in town—except his widow, as it turns out. Helen tries to strike the delicate balance between grieving widow and doing everything in her power to ensure Jay-Jay grows into a man completely unlike his father and grandfather.
While Ray and Helen’s romance seems promising at first, Sundin works some obstacles into the storyline. Helen, grappling with a poor self-image and fighting for respect as a daughter-in-law and mother, is consumed with protecting herself and her son—so much, in fact, that she purposely sabotages her relationship with Ray before it properly develops. She chooses instead the safety and security of life with a man she doesn’t love, but can provide for her and Jay-Jay. Ray, meanwhile, jilted and guilt-stricken at Helen’s sudden change of heart, makes the only choice he feels he can—volunteering for a combat flight into Germany. And this is where the pages really start turning.
While Sundin already did an admirable job of creating relatable, human characters—they remain noble and set on doing the right thing, even if they stumble along the way as we all do— whose burgeoning love story was already compelling enough to maintain readers’ attention, the action increases dramatically when Ray runs into trouble in Germany. He literally makes it through by his wits and his faith, and I couldn’t wait to find out how the whole story ended.
Sundin certainly did her homework on the period, accurately capturing both life in the military and on the home front during World War II. This was an era where a family kept their secrets and did not share their troubles with outsiders—not even their closest friends. Helen Carlisle, as a young war widow torn between wanting to escape an abusive past but honor her husband’s memory for the sake of her son, is a perfect reflection of this period. Ray, whose faith literally saves his life as he hatches a plot to get himself out of enemy territory, makes some big life changes when he returns to his hometown of Antioch. Sundin creates a gripping portrait of characters whose belief in the most important things in life—faith, love, and family—carry them through the most impossible odds. Blue Skies Tomorrow</> is part of the “Wings of Glory” trilogy, with each book focusing on one of the three Novak brothers with each making appearances in the other books. In the case of Blue Skies Tomorrow, the family dynamics set against the backdrop of an unforgettable time in American history created a well-rounded storyline with plenty of depth and intrigue.
About the reviewer: Sara Hodon’s work has appeared in History, Young Money, WritersWeekly.com, and The Valley: Lebanon Valley College’s Magazine, among others. She is also the “Date and Relate” columnist for Online Dating Magazine (www.onlinedatingmagazine.com). Read more about her trials and triumphs in the writing life on her blog, http://adventuresinthewritinglife.blogspot.com