Come from Away is a mesmerizing story of love, shifting allegiances, and second chances, set against the tumultuous years of the Second World War.
It’s 1939 and Grace Baker’s three brothers, Harry, Eugene and Norman are off to fight in the war and she’s staying behind in East Jeddore, Nova Scotia to help run the store owned by an elderly Mrs. Gardner. To escape the feelings of loneliness and helplessness with her brothers being gone, Grace and her best friend go to a dance and see a group of men standing off in a corner, but they are total strangers to the town. One of those strangers is captivated by Grace and asks her to dance and then mysteriously disappears into the night.
Rudi Weiss is a member of the 4-person Nazi U-boat team. They were only attending that dance to shake up the boredom that had been settling in, cramped inside their small boat. They weren’t supposed to call attention to themselves, and certainly weren’t supposed to be asking any of the pretty girls to dance. When their U-boat explodes, Rudi seems to be the only survivor. After hiding out in a cabin deep in the woods, he slowly begins to enter the town and finds a surprised Grace at the general store. She immediately recognizes him as the handsome stranger that asked her to dance, but he’s still acting rather mysterious and strange to her.
Unable to deny their attraction to each other as their meetings increase, their relationship slowly builds and only shows that nothing can easily be packed neatly into black and white boxes, especially during war, and certainly not in terms of finding one’s true love, even when it is as complicated as it is between Grace and Rudi. How they build their relationship, overcome the obstacles they face and give themselves over to feelings for each other made for some lovely reading.
Yet, although Come From Away is connected to Tides of Honour – Grace’s mother and father are Audrey and Danny – it could easily be read as a standalone, because while Audrey and Danny are very much present here in Come From Away, I didn’t feel there was enough connection or discussion drawn to their history – their backstory – to give the feeling that Tides of Honour must be read first. The teaser about “having so much in common with her parents” in the description really isn’t pulled together or teased out as much as I would have thought because there is hardly any mention about Danny’s own war experiences or how him and Audrey were reunited and the significant obstacles they faced, and how the twin boys became Grace’s brothers. All of may be mentioned somewhat, but it is quite scant and only on a very high periphery.
And while I found this Graham book was far more melodramatic with the drama repeating itself in Grace’s story and also with Rudi’s, (it definitely had way more melodrama than in Tides of Honour) I really do like her writing style and the characters she creates. There is a lovely flow in her style and she can create wonderful, easily readable and compelling characters. It was her characters that won me over in Tides of Honour when I read it alongside Barometer Rising for my Halifax Explosion reading. And it only means I cannot wait to read her other Canadian historical book, Promises to Keep. (I actually get to listen to this one in audio, and I’ve heard wonderful things about the narrator being well-suited to read it.)