In the spring of 1941, young Jon Meyer’s family dies in a tragic accident and he is sent to live in a small Indiana town. He arrives to find himself unwanted and shunned.
Mary Dahlgren is the mayor’s daughter. A pretty girl, she could have the pick of the boys in town, including Vernon King, the star of the vaunted high school basketball team. To the chagrin of her friends, though, Mary has always been more interested in books than boys. That is, until she meets Jon.
But Jon and Mary are kept apart through the efforts of Mary’s father, who perceives their relationship a threat to his political aspirations, and Vernon, to whom Jon is a rival for Mary’s affections. For months, Jon is subjected to a painful ostracism. Then, just when the young man’s earnestness and perseverance begin to win over many of the townsfolk, and it appears that love may conquer all, tragedy strikes.
As the country is caught up in war, so too are the young lovers swept up in events beyond their control, leaving both fighting for their very lives. If, against the odds, they are to be together, each will need to find the strength, the courage and the resourcefulness that beat only in a defiant heart.
Marvella hadn't spoken to her daughter, Claire, in almost twenty years. Marvella had given Claire an ultimatum ... either stop seeing Frank (because he was Jewish) or Marvella never wanted to see her again. Claire chose Frank. It's now May 1941. Jon is 17 and the only survivor of a car crash that kills his parents (Claire and Frank) and his older brother. Because his only living relative is Marvella, he goes to live with her. Marvella is 80, widowed and barely getting by ... she doesn't need or want the burden of raising Jon, who is a reminder of how she failed as a mother.
School starts and things aren't going too bad for Jon. He has a part-time job in a hardware store and a few friends, including Mary, who is the daughter of the mayor and owner of the hardware store. That all changes when it's discovered he is Jewish ... no one talks to him and he's fired from his job. Because of her father's political aspirations, Mary is forbidden to see Jon. She complies with this for a while but then secretly starts dating him. Then a tragedy happens that drastically changes the course of everyone's lives.
This is the first book I've read by this author and I liked it. It was an interesting story ... Jon and Mary's personal challenges along with the townspeople's prejudices set against the threat of America having to enter WWII. I liked the writing style ... I thought it flowed and was well-paced.
There were lots of characters and they were developed well. I liked Jon and Mary. Despite their young ages, they were mature and the things that happened to them made them even more so. It was a different time, a different place. It was nice to see hard and cold Marvella mellow a bit as the story progressed. I found Vernon annoying and a bit too much of a bully ... I was hoping something horrible would happen to him. Mary's father was horrible in putting his interests ahead of those of his daughter's. Ben and Walt were fun supportive characters and Jon was lucky to have them in his lonely life.
I would recommend this book and look forward to reading others by this author.