“Control is an illusion. No one has it. I don’t even have it. You can’t wish for control; you can only learn to play your part in a world where nothing is truly certain. And you do have a part to play.”
After a long wait, I recently received my reserved copy of A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner. The historical fiction tells of the Queen Mary’s 1946 ocean crossing and the war brides she carried with her. The plot is centralized on three women: the English mother Phoebe, Annalise, a German ballerina, and Simone, a French Resistance spy’s daughter. Each woman is hoping for a fresh start after the horrors of War World II. All three enter the ship, but at the end of the voyage only two disembark.
Fast forward to San Diego present day and Brette Claslake. On a visit to the Queen Mary Brette uncovers the mystery of the three women, and knows that the answer to the puzzle with help her solve her own life’s conflicts. Brette starts to track the women down, determined to find the answer and maybe come to terms with her own relationships.
The book was full of surprises, the first taking place within the first few pages. Brette is not all what she appears at the first glance. She’s different, and that is really what makes this story so unique. Although the book was a dual narrative the past and present were woven seamlessly so that the plot line flowed. There was no blundering or backtracking, the mind was able to easily slip from one time period to another.
The women in the story were all so strong in their own ways, and through her book Meissner really spoke on the theme of female friendship and connectivity. The relationships that women grow and foster throughout their lives are so critical in forming who we are as individuals. It is not a single person effort, but rather the community that surrounds us that plays a part in our well being and understanding.
I was enthralled by this particular historical event. I had not heard anything about the war brides who married US soldiers during WWII prior to this book, and I thought their tales were eye opening. WWII devastated Europe, and its fingers touched almost every single life on the continent, regardless of the nation’s borders. Being married to a Marine Corps infantry veteran I could relate to the uncertainty of the wives in the story.
To fall in love and marry someone in a time of war, and to knowingly send them off into enemy fire is an incredibly difficult feat. Not only that, but then at the end of the war the women had to pack their belongings and travel across an ocean to live in a country many had never seen before. I was blown away and humbled by their courage. During and immediately after the war over 60,000 servicemen who married overseas were promised passage for their wives and children. These are staggering numbers to me.
I read A Bridge Across the Ocean over three days, and gave it an easy 4/5 stars. It was a solid story, and while there were some familiar tropes: unlikely wartime romances, difficult family relationships, the thirty-something year old woman who is at a crossroads, like any good historical fiction the pages steals the reader away to another time and place.
Question of the Day:
Any other milspouses out there? What is one meaningful female relationship in your life? I have been blessed my whole life to have been surrounded by strong women, but my good friend Mindy has been my mentor for ages. A season of life ahead of me, Mindy has been my confidant and knitting buddy, as well as a fellow reader. We have since moved away from one another, but her friendship is still a warm blanket that spans the time away.