A story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and its aftermath, beginning with the men going off to war and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of their own adulthood.
Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the novel follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible-while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America-from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities-and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.
The book begins in 1944 and ends in 1964. It tells the tale of three best friends: Babe, Grace, and Millie and how they cope with their trials and tribulations and the husbands they love.
It is a deeply moving story about war, friendships, and love. This book is also a bit different from most that tell tales of WW II in that it speaks about the war’s effect on society; not just on the men who fight, their families and friends.
My favourite character is Babe Huggins who works in the Western Union office. She prides herself on the fact that she cuts the ticker tapes as they come out of the teletype with precision and never accidentally cuts off a letter. It also pleases her that she is able to tape the tickers in perfectly straight lines on the message forms. But, like any job, there are unpleasant parts and for Babe it’s a hugely emotional one. She is the one who must deliver the news to families of a lost son, a brother, a husband, an uncle, or a friend.
Babe’s own husband, Claude, (who formerly taught history at the local high school) is a deployed soldier and each time the teletype spits out another message Babe holds her breath and almost passes out from abject fear of seeing Claude’s name.
Not all of the three women get their husbands back at the end of the war, and I can’t tell you who did or didn’t without ruining the story. The way the women deal with their grief will have you feeling the same emotions they do, you’ll become very involved with these three women over the course of the novel and you’ll feel as though you were the invisible fourth friend. If I was rating this book, I’d give it a 4 out of 5.