Friday, May 2, 2014

A Life Apart: A Novel by L.Y. Marlow

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Novel Review
Read: February 12, 2014

When Morris Sullivan joins the navy in 1940, his hopes are high. Though he leaves behind his new wife and their baby daughter, he is thrilled to be pursuing his lifelong dream-only to be shipped off to Pearl Harbor when the war begins. When he narrowly survives the 1941 attack, thanks to the courage of a black sailor he doesn't know, Morris is determined to seek out the man's family and express his gratitude and respect. On leave, he tracks down the man's sister, and finds an immediate, undeniable connection with the nurturing yet fiercely independent Beatrice, who has left the stifling South of her upbringing for the more liberal, integrated north. Though both try to deny their growing bond, their connection and understanding is everything missing from Morris's hasty marriage to his high school sweetheart Agnes, and from Beatrice's plodding life as she grieves the brother she has lost. At once a family epic, and a historical drama that takes readers from World War II through the Civil Rights Movement to the present day, A Life Apart is about a love that creates complicated and unbreakable ties between two families that live worlds apart. L.Y. Marlow brings readers along for the emotional journey as Morris and Beatrice's relationship is tested by time, family loyalties, racial tensions, death, unending guilt, and the profound effects of war.

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On December 7, 1941 the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. Stationed at Pearl Harbor, Morris Sullivan owes his survival to Robert Dobbins, a black seaman who died pulling his comrades from the water. Seeking closure, Morris is determined to thank Robert’s family for his sacrifice, but his effort to honor a fallen hero blooms into a romance that will define the man he becomes and challenge everything he believes.

Spanning the better part of five decades, A Life Apart, is a tedious historical, but under that it is a heartbreakingly beautiful novel of prejudice, strength, forgiveness and love that defies convention. I personally found Marlow’s peppering of the story with tenuously relevant headlines from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s distracting, but the depth and earnestness of the love triangle she created between Morris, Beatrice and Agnes provided a powerfully moving thesis that struck me to the core.  

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The very next day she asked Morris to take her to church, and she had kneeled in that tiny booth, the darkness covering her, and she had told the priest everything—their secrets, the heartbreak, her pain—and when she was done, she looked through that distorted grid, a glimmer of light shimmering, and she listened to him whisper: You must forgive, my child. You must forgive to release your soul from bondage.
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