Tuesday, June 18, 2013

When the Clouds Roll By by Myra Johnson

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: June 18, 2013

Annemarie Kendall is overjoyed when the armistice is signed and the Great War comes to an end. Her fiance, Lieutenant Gilbert Ballard, is coming home, and though he is wounded, she is excited to start their life together. But when he arrives, her dreams are dashed when she learns Gilbert is suffering from headaches, depression, and an addiction to pain killers. This is not the man she had planned to marry. After serving in the trenches, Army Chaplain Samuel Vickary is barely holding onto his faith. Putting up a brave front as he ministers to the injured soldiers at the hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he befriends Gilbert and eventually falls for Annemarie. While Annemarie tries to sort out her confused feelings about the two men in her life, she witnesses firsthand the bitterness and hurt they both hold within. Who will she choose? Will she have the courage to follow her heart and become the woman God intended her to be? As the world emerges from the shadow of war, Annemarie clings to her faith as she wonders if her future holds the hope, happiness, and love for which she so desperately longs.

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Beginning just after the Armistice, Myra Johnson's When the Clouds Roll By is an inspirational story of the Great War and the repercussions it inflicted on the generation who came of age in its shadow.

Though I expected it from reading the jacket description, I really appreciated how Johnson explored war injuries in her narrative. Gilbert's depression and subsequent addiction to pain killers was a tragically common fate for many wounded doughboys, as was the emotional trauma suffered by those like Samuel, whose scars were invisible to the naked eye.

Another thing I liked about this one was how Johnson treated the religious aspects of her story. When the Clouds Roll By was released by Abingdon Press, a faith based publisher, but it was the historic setting and content rather than Christian themes that drew my attention to this piece. As a predominantly nonsecular reader I was worried I might find the underlying messages overbearing or preachy, but this was not the case. Though essential to the central story, Johnson managed a nice balance between the spiritual and secular, making her work enjoyable for believers and nonbelievers alike.

My sole complaint was how conveniently the love triangle was resolved. I like happy endings as much as the next reader, but I couldn't help feeling Johnson's conclusion lacked the authenticity I crave. I don't want to spoil anything, but in the end, it felt too neatly packaged for my tastes.

When the Clouds Roll By is a light historical with feel-good message. A perfect choice for those looking for both religion inspired fiction or gentler stories of World War I.

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"We fell in love as kids who thought the world was safe. We grew up to find ourselves in a world at war."
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