(Image from Barnes & Noble)
In the devastating aftermath of World War II, Europe's battle-ravaged citizens are looking to the future. They're rebuilding demolished communities, healing torn relationships, and piecing together their shattered souls. For thousands of young women in England, France, Belgium, and other nations, hope lies across the ocean with their American G.I. husbands. Ships, including the luxurious RMS Queen Mary, are commissioned to transport these women to the U.S. On the vessel's maiden war bride voyage, more than a thousand eager wives and their children sail toward New York Harbor. Among them is Annaliese Kurtz, a German ballerina married to a sadistic Nazi. She carries a stolen passport and identification papers belonging to a dead woman.
Seventy years later, another woman at a crossroads in her life boards the Queen Mary. Brette Caslake, a 34-year-old newlywed, hides a special gift. She's able to communicate with Drifters, lost souls who hover in "thin" places. While doing a favor for a friend aboard the ship, she encounters an otherworldly presence unlike any she's met before. This Drifter points her toward a name: Annaliese Kurtz. Official sources indicate the woman threw herself off the Queen Mary in 1946; the Drifter says otherwise. Brette refuses to "indulge" ghosts, but this one is different. This one demands a truth only Brette can find.
The more Brette learns about Annaliese Kurtz and the Queen Mary's war brides, the more intrigued she becomes. Learning about their hopes and heartaches helps her face her own struggles. In their courage, she might just find her own ...
Stories that oscillate between past and present always appeal to me, especially when they revolve around important historical periods or events. A Fall of Marigolds, Susan Meissner's novel about two women living in New York City—one during the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, the other during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011—intrigued me for that very reason. After enjoying that novel, I was thrilled to learn that Meissner has a new book out, especially since it employs a similar format to the one used in A Fall of Marigolds. In A Bridge Across the Ocean, Meissner indeed uses a back-and-forth-in-time structure to tell the story of a German woman desperate to escape at any cost. Having Annaliese stow away on the Queen Mary allows Meissner to bring attention to a World War II footnote that often gets overlooked—the thousands of European war brides whose lives changed irrevocably because of their (often hasty) marriages to American G.I.'s. While Brette's situation is interesting enough in its own right, it's the history that I found most interesting about A Bridge Across the Oceans. There's plenty to enjoy about the book, however—sympathetic characters, tense situations, a compelling mystery, sweet romance, etc. Although the novel deals with some dark issues, overall it's hopeful and uplifting. I enjoyed it and look forward to reading more from this engaging author.
If this were a movie, it would be rated:
for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, scenes of peril, and sexual content (not overly graphic, although there is a rape scene)
To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of A Bridge Across the Ocean from the generous folks at Penguin. Thank you!