Letters From Home by Kristina McMorris was published in March of 2011 by Kensington. I bought the novel after meeting Kristina in New York and hearing that Letters was set during WWII. It is the story of the loves and losses of three roommates during the war, and is one of the most touching books I’ve read this year.
The book opens at a crowded USO dance. Liz is the literary, thoughtful girlfriend of a rising politician. Betty is a beautiful singer and waitress. Julia has a talent for design and is engaged to be married to a soldier. When Liz meets soldier Morgan McClain she feels an instant connection to him but dismisses it in light of her relationship and the fact that Morgan is about to report for duty.
When Betty needs rescuing from a group of overeager men at the dance, Morgan intervenes and dances with her to protect her from the group. Liz sees them dancing, makes assumptions, and leaves without ever telling Morgan her name. Betty is smitten with Morgan and asks Liz to write a letter to him on her behalf.
When Morgan gets the letter, he is surprised at the depth of feeling the shallow, pretty singer conveys, especially since he’s been pining for Liz. He can’t help but enter into a correspondence with her. When Betty decides to enlist to help out in a field hospital to make something of her life, Morgan’s letters arrive in her absence. At Julia’s urging, Liz continues the correspondence and she and Morgan fall in love in spite of her masquerade.
I’ve read countless novels about WWII, but this is one of the most moving. The characters are richly rendered, the plot is full of tension and complexity, and the relationships of love and friendship are absorbing and original. I am not often moved to tears from my reading but Letters From Home made me cry four times. A perfect blend of tragedy and triumph, McMorris’ debut reveals a well researched novel on new fronts in WWII, and I can’t wait to read more from this gifted novelist. If you enjoyed The Postmistress or The Soldier’s Wife, you will love Letters From Home.