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Book Review – Next to Love by Ellen Feldman

Synopsis:  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 possiblewhile 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 Americafrom 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 possibilitiesand 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.

First Line:  In the year and a half Babe Huggins has worked for Western Union, she has been late only once before.”

Random Quote:  “One of the soda jerks has turned up the volume on the radio behind the counter at Swallow’s, and the announcement comes rolling out the open door and stops Babe on the pavement.


President Truman has announced that the Japanese have accepted our terms unconditionally.  Ladies and gentlemen, This is the end of the Second World War.”

ReviewNext to Love takes the reader through the lives of three newly married women as their husbands prepare to leave for duty in World War II.  The book moves through their time alone, their time upon their husbands return (or their lack of return), and all the changes that swept the nation over the next 25-30 years.

If you’re my age this book will remind you to be really happy that you missed being an adult woman in the mid-20th century.  What a dreadful time – so many boxes and things to conform to – I’m sure I would’ve been in the loony bin.  The writing and storytelling is good in this book, but the scope is too broad – I would have preferred to see it narrowed down a bit, particularly when I think of the potent impact of the prologue – as powerful a bit of writing as I’ve ever read.

There are two other books that this one made me think of in terms of time and scope – The Group, by Mary McCarthy and Gone to Soldiers by Marge Piercy.  While I like both of those books more than this one, Next to Soldiers is absolutely worth reading for just the prologue alone.  A nice addition to the treasure trove of fiction about those who stayed after during World War Two and the sacrifices they made.

FTC Disclosure:  Advance copy from the publisher for TLC Book Tours


I am pleased to be a part of Ms. Feldman’s virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours.

About Ellen Feldman

Ellen Feldman, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellow, is the author of Scottsboro, which was shortlisted for the UKs prestigious Orange Prize, as well as The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank, which was translated into nine languages, and Lucy. In addition to writing novels, she contributes to several blogs and has lectured extensively in this country, England, and Germany. Her new novel, Next to Love, will be published July 2011.

For more information on Ellen and her work, please visit her website,

Be sure to visit the rest of the stops on Ms. Feldman’s tour and see what others think of the book!

Ellen Feldmans TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, June 6th:  Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, June 8th:  Reviews from the Heart
Tuesday, June 14th:  Diary of an Eccentric
Thursday, June 16th:  Debs Book Bag
Friday, June 17th:  Books Like Breathing
Thursday, June 23rd: Life in Review
Monday, June 27th:  Girls Gone Reading
Tuesday, June 28th:  BookNAround
Wednesday, June 29th:  A Fair Substitute for Heaven
Tuesday, July 5th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, July 7th:  Book Reviews by Molly
Monday, July 11th:  girlichef
Tuesday, July 12th:  Acting Balanced
Wednesday, July 13th:  Melody & Words
Monday, July 18th:  The House of the Seven Tails
Tuesday, July 19th:  Rundpinne
Wednesday, July 20th:  Man of La Book
Monday, July 25th:  2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Tuesday, July 26th:  Simply Stacie
Wednesday, July 27th:  Colloquium
Monday, August 1st:  Books and Movies
Tuesday, August 2nd:  Thats What She Read
Wednesday, August 3rd:  Book Addiction
Thursday, August 4th:  Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, August 8th:  Alisons Book Marks
Tuesday, August 9th:  Library of Clean Reads
Wednesday, August 10th:  Broken Teepee

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