Estranged sisters seek connection and purpose at the Springfield Armory during the tumult of WWII in this novel of productive rivalries from Loigman (The Two-Family House). Ruth and Millie Kaplan have been at odds from the beginning. As children, they were labeled by their parents—and their tightly knit Jewish community in Brooklyn—as the brains and the beauty, respectively. Growing up, Ruth seethed as she felt obligated to fix her little sister’s mistakes. Meanwhile, Millie soaked in all the male attention, but also aspired to be more than just someone’s trophy wife. When unexpected tragedy breaks the family apart, Ruth leaves Brooklyn for Springfield, Mass., to stay with extended family, while Millie stays behind, gets married, and only rarely writes her sister. Years later, at the height of WWII, Millie and her young son shows up on Ruth’s doorstep, forcing to the surface their long-closeted frustrations. Together with a cast of motivated women from all classes of society, Ruth and Millie navigate old lies as well as newfound alliances and enemies within the Springfield Armory, where they all work to help the war effort. With measured, lucid prose, Loigman tells a moving story of women coming together in the face of difficulties, both personal and global, and doing anything to succeed. (Jan.)
In a Massachusetts armory town, four women negotiate the World War II homefront.
Loigman's second novel portrays a sampling of the women whose roles were pivotal during the wartime manufacturing boom. Lillian is the wife of Patrick, commanding officer of the Springfield Armory. Her family life is happy but always overshadowed by memories of childhood abuse by a cruel, martinet father. Arietta, an Italian-American from a vaudeville background, works as a cook in the local cafeteria, where she also belts out numbers to great acclaim. Millie, a war widow, works in the arms factory. She and her toddler son, Michael, live with her sister, Ruth, who works in payroll and is married to Arthur, a top armory scientist. The novel focuses primarily on Millie and Ruth, bracketing their particular sibling rivalry with the sisterhood of women at war. But Loigman's main preoccupation, conveyed with unsparing candor in extended flashbacks, is with the drastically disparate treatment, by their parents and everyone around them, of Ruth and Millie. In their 1930s Brooklyn Jewish household, youngest daughter Millie, with her red hair and blue eyes, is compared and judged superior to firstborn Ruth, whose appearance, though not described beyond "straight hair" and "brown eyes," does not measure up. The pattern continues as the girls mature: Ruth's academic achievements are discounted, her perfectionism is taken for granted, and her dates are diverted by her sister. Millie, however, seems directionless and confused. Her first serious boyfriend, future husband Lenny, is dubbed "the Bum" by her mother. So desperate is Ruth to escape the eternal comparisons that she marries Arthur and is overjoyed to be relocated to backwater Springfield. The parents' influence is so far-reaching and invasive that their sudden deaths in a car accident are a necessary authorial expedient to let the plot breathe. The stark, painful depiction of "looks-ism," 1930s style, undercuts the anodyne message of the novel's resolution.
Though it highlights historic advances for women, this book is really about gender discrimination in the home.
The Wartime Sisters is a heartfelt and poignant portrait of the complex bond between sisters, how our childhood roles define us as adults, and what dire consequences that can have, especially in times of war. The Wartime Sisters shows the strength of women on the home front: to endure, to fight, and to help each other survive.” Jenna Blum, New York Times and international bestselling author of The Lost Family and Those Who Save Us
“Fresh off her stunning debut The Two Family House, Lynda Cohen Loigman returns with The Wartime Sisters, an evocative home front tale set against the backdrop of the Springfield Armory during World War II. Through stoic, stubborn Ruth and her beautiful younger sister Millie, Loigman skillfully chronicles the complex sibling bonds and rivalries, the secrets we keep and truths that set us free. Loigman’s strong voice and artful prose earn her a place in the company of Alice Hoffman and Anita Diamant, whose readers should flock to this wondrous new book.” Pam Jenoff, New York Times bestselling author of The Orphan’s Tale
“A riveting tale of sibling rivalry and the magnetic dissonance of family, filled with heart-stopping truths that are both tender and wise. One of my favorite books of the year.” Fiona Davis, national bestselling author of The Masterpiece
“In her latest novel, Loigman once again deftly explores the complexities, heartbreaks, and fierce endurance of family bonds. Even amid the great tension and fears of the Second World War, The Wartime Sisters reminds the reader that the harshest battles are often fought here at home, with those we love and are meant to trust most. A stirring tale of loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of long-buried secrets.” Kristina McMorris, New York Times bestselling author of The Edge of Lost and Sold on a Monday
“Complex and intricately woven, The Wartime Sisters is truly everything I love in a novel. Beautifully written, rich in historical detail, and anchored by two strong women who must reconcile their pastand their secretsin order to survive. Loigman is a master storyteller and this novel had me from its very first page.” Alyson Richman, international bestselling author of The Lost Wife and The Velvet Hours
“The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman is a powerful and moving story of secrets, friendship, and sisterhood. In Ruth and Millie, whom we follow from their childhood in Brooklyn to their entwined lives as young mothers at a wartime armory in Springfield, Loigman masterfully portrays the complicated sister relationship. Beautifully written, emotionally charged, and rich with historical detail, this novel, and these sisters, will stay with me long after I turned the last page.” Jillian Cantor, author of Margot and The Lost Letter
"With a perceptive lens on the challenges of whittling away grievances that have built up over years, The Wartime Sisters is a powerful pressure cooker of a family drama."Booklist
“With measured, lucid prose, Loigman tells a moving story of women coming together in the face of difficulties, both personal and global, and doing anything to succeed.” -Publishers Weekly
Loigman's second novel (after The Two-Family House) follows Jewish sisters Ruth and Millie Kaplan from their childhood in Brooklyn to adulthood living at an armory base in Springfield, MA, during World War II. The elder by three years, Ruth is held to almost impossible standards, while Millie, with her striking looks and pleasing manner, gets away with almost anything. Possible suitors for Ruth always end up pursuing the younger, more beautiful Millie. After their parents die unexpectedly and Millie loses her husband, Lenny, the sisters end up together. Ruth's husband, Arthur, is an army officer, which allows Ruth to work a prestigious job in payroll, while Millie becomes a soldier of production in an armory factory. Resentment and jealousy intensify as Millie again becomes the beloved center of Ruth's social circle. Then a stranger arrives and long-buried secrets are revealed, leaving the sisters a chance at a hopeful future. Loigman provides a behind-the-scenes look, in alternating points of view, at women fighting their own wars at home. VERDICT Readers will enjoy the heartfelt picture of women's daily life during wartime through the eyes of two extraordinary sisters. Recommended for historical fiction fans of Pam Jenoff and Kate Morton.—Laura Jones, Argos Community Schs., IN