Ellen Feldman: Next to Love

Next to Love is the new emotive story of love and loss from the Orange Prize Shortlisted author of Scottsboro, Ellen Feldman.

The first entry in the novel’s first book is dated December 1941, when death is casting its shadow on the rosy and innocent lives of young couples living in a small town in Massachusetts. World War Two has entered into the comfortable homes of America.

Three young women – Babe, Millie, and Grace – are the central figures of the narrative. The girls, friends from their childhood, keep each other company as they try to survive the worry and fear for their men who have gone off to war. Letters and telegrams form the center of the universe for those who remain waiting. The written dispatches, awaited and feared, trigger extreme emotional responses from those who pretend to continue their lives as before.

Each woman deals with their personal tragedy differently, with despair, hope, persistence, patience, or determination as they continue to cherish the memories of those brighter days of their youth, before the war that changed everything. Their thoughts and letters fill the pages of the novel that follows their transformation from innocent brides to shattered women. Having to face anti-Semitism, rape and racism, the women need endurance and courage to confront their new lives with their traumatized husbands they no longer recognize.

The last entry bears the date of August 1964. In the changing society of women’s rights and technological innovations, the three women find a sense of continuity and emotional security in the friendship that has lasted for decades, through the war, loss of loved ones – through emotional wounds that are hard to heal. Next to Love bears witness to a dramatic period of great struggle and personal sacrifice. Yet, it is a celebration of friendship and love.

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