review: While You Were Mine
This story opens upon the protagonist, nurse Gwen Mullen, finding herself the subject of the famous LIFE magazine image that is so well known–the V-J Day sailor kiss–although this inclusion has little to do with the storyline, other than setting the tone and some other small details later.
Gwen lives with a roommate, Alice, and had been helping her care for her newborn daughter for 6 weeks. Alice, suffering from what we now call postpartum depression, inexplicably packs her things and disappears, leaving the baby with Gwen. Baby Mary’s father was believed to be either missing in action or killed in the war, and with no information on other family members, Gwen had to make the choice of whether to keep Mary, or risk her being sent to an orphanage, which had horrible reputations for the treatment of the children. A year later, Gwen had accustomed herself to the idea that she was now the girl’s mother, and she loves her fiercely. This is when Lieutenant John McKee shows up on her doorstep, looking for his wife and child, and the real drama begins. How can Gwen surrender Mary, who is hers in every way except the one that legally counts?
Although predictable, this story takes readers through Gwen’s ups and downs, and explores the various effects the war had on several characters in the story. There is a German couple who are treated with disdain for their heritage, a shell-shocked soldier dealing with the aftermath of his ordeal, and a plethora of wartime marriages observed (which color Gwen’s view on the subject). It is a well-written and satisfying read, and has a pleasant enough audio narration for those listening to the audiobook. I enjoyed it, and have downloaded more books by the author.