A World War II story.
Gail’s family has just received a telegram. The telegram contains dreadful news – Gail’s father is missing in action.
Gail knew that her father was risking his life when he flew overseas to fight against Hitler. But it didn’t seem real that he might actually die. Now Gail doesn’t know whether to hope that he is alive or simply resign her mind to the worst.
But she is determined that Christmas will be normal for her little brother and sister. And with Captain, the golden retriever that her father gave to her the week before he left, to guard them, they will be safe. But is father safe? Will Gail ever see him again?
Probably my favorite thing about this story is a *SPOILER*. And that is that Gail’s father does not live. Everything is not happy-rosy, hunky-dory, ever-after, whatever junk. Gail’s father dies, and his family grieves over him. And they learn to move on in life and bear one another up. Unfortunately, the methods that they use to do so are not always the best.
The telegram arrives ten days before Christmas. Gail feels very sorry for her younger siblings and wants to help them feel better. But instead of offering them the true security which is to be found in Christ and Christian fellowship, she dedicates her energies towards making sure that their faith in Santa Claus remains and making sure they have the gifts that they want. She thinks,
Standing there in front of Weise’s Christmas window, it became very important to Gail that her little brother and sister believe completely in Santa Claus. If they didn’t, there would be no use at all in having Christmas. [pgs. 38-39]
Later, in an extended scene, a man comes to their house dressed as Santa Claus. Gail knows the man’s true identity, but assures her little siblings that this is the real Santa.
Gail’s Uncle Ned returns home from the war blind and hardened. He is not only bitter from the loss of his eyesight, but is also scarred by the behavior of his wife. Shortly after he left for war, she sent him a letter saying “I’m sorry, but I’ve found someone else. Our marriage is over.” [pg. 15] This background causes him to burst out in anger against Gail’s mother, saying, “Yeah. Eva will claim Virgil’s alive for a while. Then she’ll get tired of waiting and take up with some new man.” [pg. 55] Ned is quickly and harshly reprimanded for his words. Gail becomes very angry at him for what he has said, but she does not show it.
It is mentioned a few times that a man gives Uncle Ned liquor.
Once when Gail goes to school, she thinks “It is the building to which little Ned carried his first fossil, the building where he learned to call that fossil a brachiopod, the building where he became fascinated with life before the dinosaurs.” [pg. 33] Later, when talking with Ned, he says of a trilobite,
“This little guy hadn’t done anything for millions of years. He was just sticking out of some shale in the bank, waiting for me and my chisel. At one time, though, he swam along the shallow ocean’s water and looked for food.”
Gail glanced toward the creek. “You mean Boggy was an ocean then?
Ned waved his arm. “This was all ocean then, but that was a long time ago.” His expression hardened. “Time changes everything.” [pgs. 52-53]
In a letter written to Gail, her father references his first date.
A snobby girl at school taunts Gail for wearing clothes made out of old sacks. Later, when Gail discovers that the girl’s underwear is also made out of these sacks, she taunts her.
Gail tells two lives, neither of which is necessary to save her life or reputation.
‘Gosh’ is used once while God’s name is used as an exclamation several times, but only in serious situations where prayer would be natural.
Conclusion. A sweet story, but one with problems. It’s not as good as other WWII stories, but it wasn’t that bad, either. Filler fiction.
Review © 2013 Laura Verret