Saturday 21 July 2012

Book ~ "Wax" (2011) Therese Ambrosi Smith

From Amazon ~ A combination coming-of-age story and mystery, following Matilda Tilly Bettencourt as she struggles against traditional expectations of women in the 1940s. 

Smith follows young, beautiful Tilly Bettencourt from the moment she makes the life-changing decision to leave her family and join the war effort as a metal welder. Settled across the country, Tilly begins a lifelong friendship with her roommate, Doris, and their neighbor, Sylvia. Doris soon discovers that she is an heir to a piece of property close to Tilly’s hometown. After the war is over, the roommates reunite to start a candle-making business on Doris’ inherited property. Unknown to Tilly and Doris, however, is a secret past that binds the girls’ families and threatens their dreams. An act of arson that destroys the girls’ business finally forces the secret to light. Together, Tilly, Doris and Sylvia struggle to realize a life outside mainstream expectations for women in the ’40s. 

While the author touches on important sociopolitical issues of the times—racism, women’s rights and homophobia—history is incidental to the story. Smith works in broad strokes, skimming over the secrecy of gay life during the ’40s and the dramatic fallout of family betrayal. The author focuses instead on character-driven plot points: the assistance of a handsome carpenter in remodeling a cottage, the challenges of first-time entrepreneurship and the heartache that characters experience searching for romantic love. Smith draws on strong, clearly defined characters to deliver a mostly linear story about family betrayal and personal integrity. 

I received a copy of this book at no charge in exchange for my honest review.

This was an interesting story about the women who supported the war movement at home while the men went off to fight in World War II.  Their lives changed so much.  No longer were they working in restaurants and stores with the eventual goal of getting married and having children.  They became trained labourers making good money.  But then the war was over, the men can home and the women lost their jobs.  I imagine for many women, it was a hard transition to go backwards again.

Eager for adventure, strangers Tilly, Doris and Sylvia sign up to build ships near San Fransisco.  After three years of hard work, they lose their jobs when the war ends but have saved a substantial amount of money.  Tilly heads home and finds it hard to settle back in to her old life.  She has her job back at her uncle and aunt's restaurant and her mother can't understand why she has no interest in getting married.  Tilly and Doris build a candlemaking business in her hometown, where Doris coincidentally inherits a piece of land from her Uncle Stanley whom she'd never met (finding him was one of the reasons Doris had gone to California).  Though Sylvia heads to Reno to work in a bar, they keep in touch.

I figured out the "secret past" as soon as it was introduced but it was interesting to see how it would be revealed and acknowledged.  And when it was revealed, no one seemed overly concerned about it.  To me, it was HUGE!

I wasn't crazy about the resolution of the arson angle and I wasn't buying the person who did it and why.

It's written in third person.  The time periods jumped around a bit but are prefaced by the date at the beginning of the chapters.  I enjoyed the story and the writing and will keep an eye out for other things by this author.

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