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December 30, 2011 / Leslie

Review & Giveaway: I Gave My Heart to Know This

I Gave My Heart to Know This
by Ellen Baker

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.

Find Ellen on Facebook or visit her webpage.

Giveaway Information

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


Leave a Comment
  1. Elizabeth / Dec 30 2011 12:46 pm

    This book is right up my alley. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Great Review.
    Thanks for the giveaway.


  2. Natalie ~ the Coffee and a Book Chick / Dec 30 2011 12:46 pm

    Wow, this does sound like a great read. I’ve not heard of this book before, but I always love weaving in past/present story lines with old letters, etc. That little mystery keeps a haunting feel for a story that really resonates with me. Thanks for putting this on my radar and for the great review!


  3. Mary / Dec 30 2011 1:01 pm

    I think I’d really like this book. I enjoyed her first book. Thanks for the review and the giveaway!


  4. BermudaOnion / Dec 30 2011 5:05 pm

    I love books that solve mysteries that way. I’m very curious about the portrait now. Thanks for the giveaway!


  5. Amanda W / Dec 30 2011 6:39 pm

    This book sounds really good. Thanks for the chance!


  6. TheBookGirl / Dec 30 2011 7:41 pm

    The WWII era is one of my favorite settings for historical fiction and your thoughtful review makes me think I need to add this to my list asap.

    Hope you have a happy and healthy New Year Leslie ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Tiffany Drew / Dec 30 2011 10:04 pm

    I’ve had my eye on this book for some time now. I love historical fiction, especially the WWII era. I also have to say that the cover for this book is gorgeous. I love the colors. Thank you for the opportunity to read this.

    Hope you have a fun (and safe!) new year!!


  8. Lisa Richards / Dec 30 2011 10:43 pm

    As a lover of historical fiction and the daughter of parents who lived WWII this is a must read for me.


  9. Karen B / Dec 31 2011 6:38 am

    I was just a little girl in MN during this time and didn’t understand the war but I remember all the women doing canning, having gardens,etc and my dad working long hours at the steel mill. I would love to read this book!


  10. Judy / Dec 31 2011 7:26 am

    This sounds like a book that I need to read. Thanks for the opportunity to win it!


  11. Irene Yeates / Dec 31 2011 8:41 am

    Great review, it certainly pulled me in! Can’t wait to read it, and it would be great to win a copy. Thank you for sponsoring this giveaway.


  12. Anita Yancey / Jan 1 2012 3:09 pm

    I really enjoy reading books that talk about the past and the present. Sounds like a very interesting and enjoyable book. I would love to read it.


  13. Holly / Jan 2 2012 12:00 am

    I love books like this, thanks for the giveaway!


  14. Rebekah / Jan 2 2012 2:10 pm

    I’ve never been much of a reader but I just read Keeping the House and now I can’t wait to read your other books. You’ve transformed me. ๐Ÿ™‚


  15. Susan / Jan 2 2012 2:19 pm

    I loved Keeping the House and look forward to reading Ellen Baker’s latest, I Gave My Heart to Know This. I hope my name is drawn for the giveaway!


  16. Chelsea Garay / Jan 2 2012 2:29 pm

    Her first book was fantastic! Would love to read this one as well!! Thanks for the giveaway :).


  17. Linda Limbach / Jan 2 2012 2:50 pm

    Thanks for the giveaway–please enter me! This book sounds like a winner!


  18. Terri Goudy / Jan 2 2012 3:30 pm

    My mother told me about Ellen’s first book, Keeping the House. I read it in three days and absolutely loved her writing! It was the best book I have ever read. ๐Ÿ™‚
    And when her new book, I Gave My Heart To Know This, came out, I rushed to get it. And again, it was so wonderful!
    She is so gifted with her writing. She transports you to the family she is writing about and you can feel and see everything she is painting for you. And, I absolutely love generational stories.
    You will always keep her books and treasure them.


  19. Jeanne Nelson / Jan 2 2012 4:05 pm

    Loved Ellen’s first book and my book group enjoyed a conversation with her! Would love to read her second book with my group this year! Thanks!


  20. Ellen Baker / Jan 2 2012 5:08 pm

    Pre-ordered this book so that I could get it on the first day offered – had to pay for the shipping, but thought it was well worth it. Such a wonderful story and characters! This era is so intriguing to me-I found it hard to put the book down! Ellen is a wonderful author and waiting on the edge of my seat for her next book!


  21. Angela / Jan 2 2012 5:50 pm

    Would love a copy of this book!


  22. Dianne / Jan 2 2012 7:49 pm

    Sounds like a good read. Thanks for the givewawy.


  23. windicindi / Jan 2 2012 8:10 pm

    I love reading women’s historical fiction! My 93 year old dad is a WWII survivor
    and I have grown up hearing many interesting stories about the time period.
    Many thanks, Cindi


  24. Lisa / Jan 3 2012 7:43 am

    I am a member of an informal reading group that meets bi-monthly. This book was chosen for our next read and I am in charge of the discussion. After reading the reviews for this book, I must admit I am excited to read it for myself. I love mysteries; especially the ones that weave past with present. ๐Ÿ™‚


  25. Sue Annette Smith, Barnum, MN / Jan 3 2012 11:36 am

    I loved this book! The setting, the era, the characters, the family issues, all~ were most interesting! I was telling my son about the book (MTU alum, age 29) and mentioned the setting and events that took place in the UP of Michigan. He was excited because he had read about the history of Calumet and knew about the Italian Hall tragedy! I was so surprised that he knew about the inident relayed in this book. I really loved the ending of this novel!! Now…will there be a sequel…with Julia and the doctor???

    Congratulations on another wonderful novel, Ellen. By the way, I noticed in this book that you used the words “keeping the house” in one chapter. Will your next novel include the “hidden” words “I gave my heart to know this”?

    I read a library copy of this novel, but would love my own signed copy. I do have a signed copy of KEEPING THE HOUSE!


  26. Maureen / Jan 3 2012 4:08 pm

    It looks like an interesting story that I would enjoy reading.


  27. Kay swederski / Jan 7 2012 9:29 pm

    would love to win a copy of this book ~ thanks!


  28. Lisa Palmer / Jan 7 2012 10:38 pm

    :)Thanks for the giveaway. Sounds like an interesting read ๐Ÿ™‚


  29. Kara / Jan 8 2012 12:26 am

    Thanks for the giveaway.


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