This novel reveals its story through letters. Glory, a 23-year-old, very pregnant mother of an energetic two-year-old son, picks Rita’s address from a hat at a 4-H meeting. The intent was to have women select an anonymous pen-pal to help ease the stress of their “situation,” that is, being at home while their husbands are at war. Glory introduces herself in January, 1943, and tells Rita that if they are going to correspond, they should get to know each other.
Rita replies to the letter a few weeks later and we discover she is a middle-aged professor’s wife from Iowa who loves to garden. Her husband as well as her newly turned 18-year-old son have both volunteered to serve in the war.
Both women seem to understand the same loneliness and feelings of not fitting in with their community – and they develop a deep friendship through their correspondence.
I enjoyed the intimacy of the letters. The annoying neighbors, the new friends, what grows well in the gardens, the recipes that stretch the rations, the gossip of their community, the good memories, the very ordinary details of life fill each letter. I was almost as excited as the characters to start a new letter and find out what would be revealed next.
There is also a bit of romance, lots of family drama, and heartbreak of celebrating holidays without loved ones. Be sure to have some tissues handy because some of the letters will surely break your heart.
Pick this book up if you enjoyed The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Plot-wise it is very different. But I was reminded of “Guernsey” while reading I’ll be seeing you – I suppose it’s the glimpse of what happens on the homefront and the fact that both books are written through letters being passed back and forth.
Questions for discussions and a conversation with the authors are included at the end of the book. The conversation was particularly interesting — co-authors Hayes and Nyhan wrote the book without ever having met in real life! They only knew each other through phone calls and emails. Perhaps this is what gives that sense of authenticity to Glory and Rita’s letters.
Check the WRL catalog for I’ll be seeing you