I wish I could give this book more than five stars, although it wasn’t what I expected. First of all, I don’t usually read non-fiction or memoirs. Secondly, romances are my least favorite genre. That may sound odd since I’ve written romance into many of my mysteries and also published a paranormal romance. Having said all that, I found this book nothing short of inspiring, romantic, and historically interesting. The author, Ms. Spinelli, shares letters written by her boyfriend during the time he served in Vietnam. We know from the start that he died in the war and that Ms. Spinelli had locked away these letters and other memories from that relationship in a suitcase that she only reopened fifty years after his death after being invited to view a memorial created in her boyfriend’s honor.
The story of Ms. Spinelli’s love affair is interspersed through the book along with the letters in date order of when she received them. Not all the letters are included and some are edited, but they retain the voice of a young man deeply in love and planning to marry his sweetheart. Indeed, both Ms. Spinelli and her boyfriend Lester (known to her as Chip) considered themselves man and wife. Chip was recruited in late 1969 and served through March of 1970 when he was listed as Missing in Action. His death was later confirmed, and a large number of relatives, friends, and residents of his town attended his funeral.
I couldn’t stop reading this book. Having been a child during the Vietnam era, I can only recall the protests, hippies, and “make love, not war” slogan. This book brought home the meaning of those messages. It also gave me a glimpse into war and the sacrifices soldiers and their families face.
I have to say that more than one passage brought tears to my eyes and that I found Ms. Spinelli’s final chapters, decades after Chip’s death, to reflect her growth and the many lessons she shares with us about appreciating the small details of life, embracing the written word through cards and letters instead of texts and emails, and recognizing the way life and death are connected. Some may consider her experience with a psychic that’s included later in the book to be above the top, but I believe people and even pets who have strong connections with their loved ones will reconnect with them one day after they’re gone.
Reading this book will give you historical insight but, more importantly, will touch your heart. Don’t miss it.
This was a fun read. As a time-travel fan (having read a few time-travel books and also written one), I found this book featured a unique concept. Aboard an Amtrak heading for Chicago, several passengers find themselves back in 1860 on an excursion trip arranged by the Union Pacific Railroad. Each of these passengers has a story. There’s an author who was chosen for a writer-in-residence program; a female detective; an elderly couple whose daughters worried about them taking the trip; a couple who were trying to rekindle their romance; a train buff who had traveled many rails; and a family so absorbed with social media and technology to the extent they were losing communication with one another.
As the train passes through a dust storm, these people find themselves dressed in clothes from the 1800’s and that they’ve assumed the identities of real people from that time. There are also other people on the train whom they don’t know. Making the most of the situation, they act out their roles. But besides traveling back in time, there are other surprises along the way for these passengers including a murder, an ill-fated romance, and an Indian attack.
I won’t give away what happens and whether this group returns to the present and if they do, what happens. But I’ll say that they all learn a lot about history and more about one another as they experience this adventure.
I enjoyed this book, the characters, and their time-travel adventure. It’s a great book to read on a train.