A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith
In 1929, the United States Congress passed legislation funding travel to Europe for mothers of fallen American soldiers. By 1933, 6,693 Gold Star Mothers had made the pilgrimage.
April Smith tells the fictional story of five Gold Star Mothers as they travel to the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. Her story centers on Cora Blake, the librarian in a small town on an island off the coast of Maine. Cora’s only child, Sammy, was killed in the final days of the war, and she chose for the government to bury him in France, because she wanted him to be in the field of honor, surrounded by his brothers in arms. Her Gold Star group is made up of a granddaughter of a railroad tycoon, a Russian immigrant chicken farmer, a tennis star with unstable mental health, and an Irish housemaid. They come from many different backgrounds and live vastly different lives, but their shared journey and loss unite them. Along the way, they encounter a tin-nose expatriate journalist, two deaths, and a secret.
This is a segment of our history that I was not familiar with, and April Smith’s depiction of the times and the women’s travels is captivating. I grew to be fond of the Gold Star Mothers and I wanted to find out more about their lives, both past and future. This is a beautifully written historical fiction novel that will surprise you, entrance you and stick with you long after you finish reading it.