The Photograph
Virginia Ellis
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The Photograph

Virginia Ellis
336 pages
June 2004
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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On Maddy Marshall’s seventeenth birthday, the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, beginning a time of bloodshed and war. Innocent and immature Maddy can’t quite grasp the momentousness of it, instead feeling irked that all the young men, including her fiancé and brother Davey, are eagerly joining the war effort leaving the women behind. For her sister-in-law Ruth, still weak from miscarriages, it’s is a time of suspense, agony and fear.

When Davey sends for both Maddy and Ruth to come to Miami before he heads off, the girls jump at the offer. It’s an idyllic time for Maddy, who enjoys dancing and flirting and develops a serious crush on Lieutenant Tull-Martin, until the night before Davey ships out - which is when the photograph is taken, and a tragic event occurs that almost destroys her. Meanwhile, Ruth makes a strange discovery: the photograph, which appears ordinary to others, reveals the future to her. As the war progresses and the casualties mount, Maddy and Ruth have to contend with grave secrets and serious consequences. In this time of trouble and turmoil, what will happen to them all?

With considerable skill, author Virginia Ellis nostalgically captures the desperate edge of impending war and possible death along with the innocence, the hope and the prevalent rallying spirit of determination and iron will. The sensitive characterizations feel so real as to bring alternately tears of joy and sorrow to the readers’ eyes as they follow the trials and tribulations Maddy and Ruth, two women dissimilar in age and character who discover a bond during a time of crisis. Maddy’s journey from innocence and immaturity to experience and pain is as evocative as it is tragic. While Ruth’s unswerving strength of character, as well as the photograph which only reveals the truth to her, makes her a very intriguing character. Together with various side characters, these two women embody the spirit of war – of innocence crushed and the resultant harsh reality. The suspense, bits of humor, and authentic atmosphere are all skillfully captured by Ellis. A must-read, Ellis’ powerhouse of a novel is highly recommended.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Rashmi Srinivas, 2004

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