Wednesday, February 20, 2019

“The Wartime Sisters” by Lynda Cohen Loigman – Raging Battles of Conscience

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman (Book cover)

War is an unimaginably complex beast and its repercussions often reach far beyond the battlefield in unexpected ways, something Lynda Cohen Loigman makes quite apparent in her second novel, The Wartime Sisters. In it, we are introduced to two estranged sisters who become reunited at the start of the Second World War at the Springfield Armory.

One lives as the wife of an officer, while the other is a widow working at the factory. The vast difference in the course of their lives breeds resentment between the two, embarking both on a journey neither could have imagined.

Lynda Cohen Loigman Peers on the Battle Close to Home


Being attracted to anything grandiose which defies the conventions of normal life, humans have always found war exceptionally fascinating, at the very least from an observer's standpoint. While the course of any war could be essentially boiled down to a few sentences, it takes much longer to delve into their far-reaching implications. It's practically impossible to identify all the ways in which a major conflict can trickle into the lives of people from all over the world, but this doesn't prevent us from putting our imagination on overdrive and writing our own stories about it, as did Lynda Cohen Loigman in her second novel, The Wartime Sisters.

The premise behind the novel is a fairly simple one, taking us to the beginning of the Second World War, when America's involvement still remained secondary and focused on helping the Allies with military production. We are introduced to two sisters, Ruth and Millie, who grew up together in Brooklyn, now estranged from each other and both carrying their fair share of unsightly secrets. Fate sees them reunited at the Springfield Armory; Millie lives on the campus as an officer's wife, while Ruth is a widow working in the factory.

The immense difference between their positions in life only further drives the stake of estrangement between them and even gives birth to resentment. However, they might perhaps one day find some common ground after all, especially since an unexpected revenant from the past finds his way back into their lives, threatening to expose the secrets both tried so hard to bury.

Tensions of the World


While Lynda Cohen may have written a fictional novel here, she took care to include many truthful and accurately-researched historical details to not simply colour her story, but to give us a glimpse into a very short and intricate time period. More precisely, from the very start she essentially presents an expose on what family life was like during the Second World War, at least in America, and how this event governed the thoughts, hopes and dreams of virtually everyone.

She especially does an excellent job of depicting the omnipresent tension which ruled pretty much the entire world, how nothing was ever certain from one day to the next. To witness the violent and death-ridden shaping of humanity's history is the sort of experience which we should always collectively remember as a civilization, along with the horrors it brings with it.

Lynda Cohen takes care in trying to present multiple perspectives on the subject as well, displaying the variety of ways in which peaceful civilians were affected, from challenging their senses of duty and unity to the sacrifices they become forced to make.

The conviction and detail with which the author tells these smaller stories really does make me believe there was enough research put into them to render them truthful and historically-accurate; it definitely isn't a leap to think some people might have experienced the consequences of war exactly as she described it. All in all, I would venture to say from a historical education perspective, this novel paints a rather detailed and complete picture of war's far-reaching consequences.

Tugging at the Heartstrings


With the setting being so solidly-defined, it is time to move on the actual story of the novel, the one following the path of the two sisters. The first element which surprised me was the pace of the plot and the length of the chapters. Structure-wise, it is rather reminiscent of a thriller, moving along quickly and clearly without getting too bogged down in any single detail or idea, with the progress of the plot being at the forefront of the author's thoughts. I found this was especially true for the second half of the book; after the stage is set, the twists and turns begin piling up with the focus shifting from a study of war to a study of the relationship between two sisters.

The depth and realism with which our main characters are depicted make it quite easy to care about them and empathize with their struggles. As you might imagine, there are more than a few moments where the author pulls on your heartstrings, demonstrating the immense destructive capabilities of broken trust and buried secrets. She ensures we, the readers, are privy the pain of the wounded human spirit, as well as the fulfilment of its forgiveness.

The meat of the plot does reside in the development of the relationship between the two sisters, and for the most part I really enjoyed this character study which felt quite understandable and believable in its arc. The only negative aspect about it, in my opinion, is it actually somewhat overshadows the story of the other two women whom the author seemed to try and push into main character slots as well. Compared to the two sisters, Lillian and Arietta did feel a bit more “artificially-crafted” rather than being natural inhabitants of the world created by Lynda Cohen.


The Final Verdict


Ultimately, The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman is a highly insightful and enthralling novel about both the long arm of the Second World War as well as the complex relationship between two sisters. If you enjoy powerful historical fiction pertaining to the Second World War and focusing on character relations, then I believe this book will be right up your alley.



Lynda Cohen Loigman

Lynda Cohen Loigman


Lynda Cohen Loigman is an American author from the streets of Massachusetts where she earned a B.A. in English and American Literature from Harvard College, as well as a law degree from Columbia Law School.

As an author she had an extraordinary debut with her novel titled The Two-Family House, chosen by Goodreads as the best book of March 2016 and nominated for the Goodreads 2016 Choice Awards in Historical Fiction.




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