Last week an online friend sent me this review of my first book. I was so tickled by Cass Wessel’s memories of the time as well as her take on the book.
by Cara C. Putman
Cara Putman specializes in novels set during World War II. True to the name, “Canteen Dreams”, brings to life the spontaneous volunteer phenomena called the railroad canteen. This writer has vague early childhood memories of them, although at the time I could not have told you what they were called. I was probably around two or three years old, traveling with my mother from Navy base to Navy base following my father to his various postings around the country. In train station waiting rooms while my mother and I awaited our connecting train, I recall seeing tables of coffee and sandwiches piled upon doors teetering across sawhorses. Out on the platform, I remember the steam locomotive’s screeching brakes as the behemoth came to a lurching halt. Before pulling out of the station, I remember girls coming down the isles of the trains passing out coffee, sandwiches, cookies, apples and oranges. The latter was a real treat in the midst of wartime. I recall the sonorous steam whistle, the conductor calling “All aboard” sounding like “Haulaboard” and the huff-chuff-huff-chuff-huff-chuff-chuff-chuffing of the train as it pulled away from the platform. I remember swaying like drunken sailors down the train isles as we found our way to our seats. I remember the lulling sound of the train clickety clacking down cold steel tracks.
“Canteen Dreams” brought it all back. Cara’s depiction captures both the detail and atmosphere of the railway station canteen.
In “Canteen Dreams”, the heroine, Audrey Stone, a trainman’s daughter, meets a wealthy rancher’s son, Willard Johnson at a dance. Oblivious to impending disaster, they whirl the night away on December 6, 1941, the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The next day, the nation’s shock invades the Stone home, and within a matter of days, the war threatens to scar the Johnson family forever. Subsequent events, centering on the war, propel Audrey and Willard through heartbreak and healing. Some of these they face together and others threaten their budding relationship. Will their relationship stand the test? Will Willard be drafted? Will he win Audrey’s hand? Throughout critical moments, faith provides hope, help and courage.
Although, Cara C. Putman has written a romance novel on a serious theme, in some respects, the plot of “Canteen Dreams” reminded me of William Shakespear’s adroit handling of mishap and mayhem for hero and heroine. There were lighter moments, a chuckle or two, but mostly this book was a serious treatment of the subject of home front lives affected by wartime, an appropriate theme for our own nation currently at war overseas. The fact that “Canteen Dreams” won the 2008 Book of the Year Award in the short historical category recommends this book far better than my own “way to go, girl” plug. This is a thoroughly enjoyable romance novel that left me wanting to read more books by this author. So I think I will. The next book will be, “Sandhill Dreams”, also set during World War II. It is already bought and I can’t wait to get at it.
By the way, Cara’s books are available at Barnes and Noble, Christian Book Distributors and Amazon.com.