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New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg takes us to Chicago at the time of World War II in this wonderful story about three sisters, their lively Irish family, and the men they love.
As the novel opens, Kitty and Louise Heaney say good-bye to their boyfriends Julian and Michael, who are going to fight overseas. On the domestic front, meat is rationed, children participate in metal drives, and Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller play songs that offer hope and lift spirits. And now the Heaney sisters sit at their kitchen table every evening to write letters–Louise to her fiancé, Kitty to the man she wishes fervently would propose, and Tish to an ever-changing group of men she meets at USO dances. In the letters the sisters send and receive are intimate glimpses of life both on the battlefront and at home. For Kitty, a confident, headstrong young woman, the departure of her boyfriend and the lessons she learns about love, resilience, and war will bring a surprise and a secret, and will lead her to a radical action for those she loves. The lifelong consequences of the choices the Heaney sisters make are at the heart of this superb novel about the power of love and the enduring strength of family.
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Elizabeth Berg is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including We Are All Welcome Here, The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY Award in 1996. The winner of the 1997 New England Booksellers Award for her body of work, Berg is also the author of a nonfiction work, Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True. She lives in Chicago.
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It was Kitty’s turn to sleep with her head at the foot of the bed. She didn’t mind; she preferred it, actually. She liked the mild disorientation that came from that position, and she liked the relative sense of privacy—her sisters’ feet in her face, yes, but not their eyes, not their ears, nor the close, damp sounds of their breathing. And at the foot of the bed she was safe from Louise, who often yanked mercilessly at people’s hair in her sleep.
Tonight Kitty was last to bed, having been last in the bathroom. Everybody liked it when Kitty was last in the bathroom because, of the eight people living in the house, she always took the longest. Apart from the normal ablutions, she did things in there: affected poses she thought made her look even more like Rita Hayworth—she did look like Rita Hayworth, everyone said so. She filed her fingernails, she experimented with combining perfumes to make a new scent, she creamed her face, she used eyebrow pencil to make beauty marks above her lip. She also read magazines in the bathroom because there, no one read over her shoulder. Oh, somebody would bang on the door every time she was in there, somebody was always banging on the bathroom door, but a girl could get a lot done in a room with a locked door. Kitty could do more in five minutes in the bathroom than in thirty minutes anywhere else in the house, where everyone in the family felt it their right—their obligation!—to butt into everyone else’s business.
When Kitty came out of the bathroom, she tiptoed into the bedroom, where it appeared her sisters were already asleep—Tish on her side with her knees drawn up tight, Louise with the covers flung off. Kitty crouched down by Louise and whispered her sister’s name. Kitty wanted to talk; she wasn’t ready to sleep yet. But Louise didn’t budge.
Kitty moved to the bottom of the bed, slid beneath the covers, and sighed quietly. She stared up at the ceiling, thinking of Julian, of how tomorrow he would be leaving, off to fight in the Pacific with the Marines, and no one knew for how long. And Michael, Louise’s fiancé, he would be leaving, too, leaving at the same time but going in the opposite direction, for he was in the Army and shipping out to Europe. And why were they not in the same branch of the service, these old friends? Because Julian liked the forest green of the Marine uniforms better than the olive drab of the Army or the blue of the Navy. Also because James Roosevelt, the president’s son, was in the Marines.
It seemed so odd to Kitty. So frightening and dangerous and even romantic; there was an element of romance to this war, but mostly it just felt so odd. As though the truth of all this hadn’t quite caught up with her, nor would it for a while. No matter the graphic facts in FDR’s Day of Infamy speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbor: the three thousand lives lost, the next day’s declaration of war on Japan, then Germany’s declaration of war on the United States. Kitty’s facts were these: she was Kitty; he was Julian; every Saturday night they went downtown for dinner at Toffenetti’s and then to one of the movie palaces on State Street. Sometimes, after that, he would take her to the Empire Room at the Palmer House for a pink squirrel, but her parents didn’t like for Kitty to stay out so late, or to drink. Now his leave after basic was up and he was shipping out, he was going over there. And both boys foolishly volunteering for the infantry!
Kitty rose up on her elbows and again whispered Louise’s name. A moment, and then she spoke out loud. “Hey? Louise?” Nothing. Kitty fell back and rested her hands across her chest, one over the other, then quickly yanked them apart. It was like death, to lie that way; it was how people lay in coffins. She never slept that way, she always slept on her side. Why had she done that? Was it a premonition of some sort, a sign? What if it was a sign? “Louise!” she said, and now her sister mumbled back, “Cripes, Kitty, will you go to sleep!” It was good to hear her sister’s voice, even in anger. It soothed and anchored her. She breathed out, closed her eyes, and in a short while felt herself drifting toward sleep. She wanted to dream of Julian on the day she first met him: confident, careless, his blond hair mussed and hanging over one eye, his short-sleeved shirt revealing the disturbing curves of his muscles. She tried to will herself toward that.
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Book Description Books On Tape, 2007. Audio CD. Condition: New. Never used!. Seller Inventory # P111415938571