5 out of 5 Sunflowers to I’LL BE SEEING YOU

Posted Sep 19 2013, 4:05 pm in ,

I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Contains Mild Spoilers

This epistolary novel is set during World War II, when two women as different as different gets find each other through a pen pal program. Glory Whitehall is a young mother living in New England and Rita Vicenzo is a middle-aged woman from Iowa. The war is the only thing they have in common – at first.

Rita’s only son and husband as well as Glory’s husband are all fighting in the war, stationed in different parts of the world. Back home, wives support the war effort with things like victory gardens, volunteering, and of course, sending v-mail to loved ones.

Before we get any further, you should know I’m not a huge fan of epistolary novels. I find them to lack action. But not this book. Through the same letters that quickly bonded Rita and Glory in friendship, I found myself captivated. For me, World War II is simply history. My grandparents are all gone now so I have no real personal connection to this period. Through these letters, I got to feel the pinch of having to feed a family on rations, the pain of receiving heavily redacted letters from your beloved husband, and the prejudice and narrow-mindedness of strangers. But you know what truly touched me?


Let’s be honest – ours is a world full of so much bad news, it’s often hard to see the joy through the forest of misery. Despite the fact that the war has separated Rita and Glory from their families, their friendship doesn’t just bloom – it becomes the single crucial constant that brings each character through tragedy. Each becomes the other’s compass. Rita, through Glory’s encouragement, opens her heart and home while Glory, with Rita’s guidance, makes real and at times, agonizing choices. Their letters are honest — raw emotion. During our bookchat earlier this week, one of our members compared it to Catholic confession and I pumped a fist in the air. Yes! This is probably why confession used to be done with a screen between priest and sinner — because somehow, not being able to see someone’s face encourages us to reveal everything. 

Even the zits. 

And you know what happened? I loved Glory and Rita even more. 

As I read this novel, I wondered if today’s military spouses are still able to connect with each other so deeply. Letter writing is a lost art, right? Today, we have cell phones and Twitter and Facebook. And then, one wise member of Book Hungry pointed out that people always find ways to use technology to connect. It is, after all, how we connected to form this group.

I give this book 5 out of 5 sunflowers because I can so clearly see the way they brighten Glory’s guest bedroom and because this book is truly a bloom. Oh, and there’s a bonus — some letters include real WWII recipes that made a few of our book club members reach for the phone to call their grandparents. This book is transformative; I hope you’ll give it a shot. But don’t take my word for it. Please visit my Book Hungry sisters to see what they think. 







2 responses to “5 out of 5 Sunflowers to I’LL BE SEEING YOU”

  1. abby says:

    you give the most complete and lovely reviews. winner winner chicken dinner.

  2. i second what abs said. your reviews are always so well-thought out. well done.