This heartfelt novel by Ellen Feldman follows the lives of 3 women – Babe, Millie & Grace – over the course of more than 2 decades. In 1941, the three best friends are faced with the fact that their loved ones are going away to war. The tales that unfold from the repercussions of the war are gripping, full of emotional grief and conflicted turmoil, affecting not only themselves and those that did & didn’t come back from the war, but all the family and friends in their lives as well. The societal expectations and obligations for the “proper” conduct of a woman after the war are illustrated in each of these strong women.
In that time period, not only were the consequences of the war addressed, but the injustices, discrimination and eventual beginnings of tolerance & acceptance with African-Americans and Jewish people were incorporated into Feldman’s novel. At times I did feel it was a bit disjointed where, for example, Babe’s story is being told into the 1950s and then it jumps back to Millie in 1940’s. At first it was a bit off-putting, but as the story unfolded, that style seemed to work better with the timeline of events. Things would be eluded to in one woman’s story, and then the narrative would go back and be told in the eyes of the other woman. I loved reading about the children, growing up through the years and seeing how the adults in their lives shape how they become as they get older.
Overall, Next to Love is beautifully written, with an easy style and flow to the stories. A definite must-read this summer!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4/5 stars)