Review & Giveaway: I Gave My Heart to Know This
Genre: Historical / Women’s Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: August 2, 2011
Format: Hardback | 324 pages
Rating: 5 of 5
It’s 1944 and American women are taking jobs as factory workers to support the war effort. Violet Maki, her daughter Lena, and Grace Anderson are employed as welders in a Wisconsin shipyard. Grace’s high school sweetheart is away fighting the war as is Lena’s twin brother. The women write letters and try to keep up morale but when bad news arrives they struggle to retain a sense of normalcy. Grace wants to move on with her life while Lena feels that would be a betrayal that she could not forgive.
Five decades later, Julia, Violet’s granddaughter has agreed to house-sit the family farm for her aunt and uncle while they are away on an extended trip. As she is cleaning out a room for herself in the attic she discovers old letters and a studio portrait of a glamorous blonde woman; the back of the picture was inscribed, “Love Grace”. Julia doesn’t know of any family member named Grace, but her mother never spoke much about the family.
The story weaves the past and present; we join Violet, Grace and Lena in the waning days of WWII, while in 1999 Julia unravels the mystery and discovers the secrets that nearly destroyed her family. When done well, this is one of my favorite techniques and Ms. Baker’s beautiful writing has us moving between the generations seamlessly.
Much of the story takes place in the past focusing on the three women. They are well-developed, interesting characters in a unique period in history. It was a pleasure to read about strong, competent women confronting difficult situations. Towards the end of the war the manufacturing industry, out of necessity, began hiring women to do jobs typically held by men. Working as a welder was dangerous and the women often needed to prove themselves capable to the male workers and supervisors.
I found this a very enjoyable novel. It is a multi-layered, emotional story with enough plot twists to keep the pages turning and a satisfying ending where all the pieces come together. Highly recommended.
About The Author
Ellen Baker was born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and grew up in Wisconsin, Illinois, and South Dakota. She has worked as a costumed living history interpreter, a curator of a World War II museum, and as a bookseller and event coordinator at an independent bookstore. Her previous novel, Keeping the House, won the 2008 Great Lakes Book Award. She lives in Minnesota.
Ellen Baker has generously offered a copy of I Gave My Heart to Know This to one of my readers.
- Contest is open to US addresses only.
- To enter leave a comment.
- The deadline for entry is Sunday, January 9th. I will draw one winner who will be contacted by email and will have 48 hours to respond with a mailing address.
Contest Now Closed
Winner: Irene Yeates