Friday, July 17, 2009

Dream When You're Feeling Blue

I couldn't ask for a better book than Dream When You're Feeling Blue by Elizabeth Berg to show me a bittersweet perspective of what's an "everyday life" like at the onset of World War II.

The story centers on the Heaney family of Chicago, a full family of 8; Frank and Margaret Heaney has their hands full, raising 3 daughters and 3 young sons in the midst of the crucial Allies vs. Axis war in the 1940's. The three sisters Kitty, Louise and Tish are very close, and each has their own love story with a soldier (or soldiers-- in Tish's case) deployed in the war.

The novel begins as Kitty and Louise says goodbye to their sweetheart Julian and Michael, both soldiers in the Marine and the US Army, respectively. Kitty has awaited this day with anxious anticipation, her hands wrung, hoping against hope that Julian would propose at last, like how Michael proposed to Louise days before their leavetaking.

In just a few months, the war grows thick and alarming. The loved ones left behind do everything they can to support the war. Back home, there are no more hot showers, the most common commodities like meat have become a luxury; flour, coffee and sugar come in rationed coupons, and children save for victory stamps and scrounge for steel to take part in the war effort in exchange for few pennies. Families desperately tune in to the news, write religiously to their sons and husbands in the front, proclaiming their pride and support in the war, but inside simply dreading the worst.

I've always known that Elizabeth Berg writes poignant stories about the struggles and the losses, and this story is no exception. It's not just for the three sisters, but the entire family and the country as well, and it is well told in a simple, light narrative. But her endings are so bittersweet that you can almost taste it. I've yet to know another author that makes me depressed even with a (surprising but) happy ending.

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