In those moments when she was alone, her body propped up in bed and a borrowed book she was using to study English on her lap, she saw her mother saying good-bye for the last time through a forced smile, and her father still holding on to her bag for a few more moments. She didn’t want to look at those horrible photos in the paper and believe her parents could be amongst the piles off bodies or reduced to dark ash. She wanted instead to look at the family photograph that sat on her nightstand and believe that they were still just as she had left them. Father in his dark brown overcoat and stylish fedora, and Mother always with something warm and sweet in her hands.
(from “Going Home” by Alyson Richman, Grand Central, page 27)
Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is a collection of 10 short stories that at some point bring readers to Grand Central Terminal in New York City on the same day in September 1945. The stories are set shortly after the end of World War II, when refugees were creating new lives in America and soldiers were making their way home. When I saw the list of authors and stories in this collection, I definitely couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it.
- “Going Home” by Alyson Richman (The Lost Wife)
- “The Lucky One” by Jenna Blum (Those Who Save Us)
- “The Branch of Hazel” by Sarah McCoy (The Baker’s Daughter)
- “The Kissing Room” by Melanie Benjamin (The Aviator’s Wife)
- “I’ll Be Seeing You” by Sarah Jio (Blackberry Winter)
- “I’ll Walk Alone” by Erika Robuck (Call Me Zelda)
- “The Reunion” by Kristina McMorris (Bridge of Scarlet Leaves)
- “Tin Town” by Amanda Hodgkinson (22 Britannia Road)
- “Strand of Pearls” by Pam Jenoff (The Kommandant’s Girl)
- “The Harvest Season” by Karen White (The Time Between)
I don’t usually read short stories because I often feel like they end before the story takes off, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself satisfied by every one of these stories. I couldn’t put this book down, and while I liked some stories more than others, in the week since I finished it, I still can’t decide which story was my favorite.
These stories are all unique in their subject matter, from a Holocaust survivor trying to get on with his life after losing his wife and daughters to a female pilot struggling with a different sort of grief and guilt, from a woman who dreads her soldier husband’s return to a young girl leaving her home in England to start a new life with her mother and GI husband in America. Another story follows a young girl who travels alone from Shanghai to New York City to reunite with her father only to learn he’s not the man she thought he was, and Sarah McCoy lets readers know what happened to Hazel from The Baker’s Daughter, who joined the Lebensborn program.
Grand Central seems to perfectly capture the postwar atmosphere in a big city, with the chaos in the train station and the roller coaster of emotions within each character. The changes in society, especially in regards to women and their romantic relationships and career aspirations, also feature prominently in some of these stories. I was impressed not only by the character development in these stories but also by the ways in which the characters crossed paths with one another, which emphasizes how well this collection is structured. If you love novels set during World War II or have loved novels by these authors in the past, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on a copy.
Disclosure: I received Grand Central from Berkley for review.
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