Basing her novel on the documented World War II story of the Bedford Boys, nineteen young men from the same small New England community killed on Omaha Beach on D‑Day, Ellen Feldman paints an intricate portrait of the families left behind. Following the lives of three couples, not all of whose members survive the war, Feldman gives new insight into the sacrifices made by the “Greatest Generation” — on the battlefront as well as on the home front. The impact of the war on the soldiers, their parents, their wives and their children is one that lasts far beyond the war’s end: Feldman’s narrative spans from 1944 to 1964 and captures the emotional ripples that long outlast the war itself.
Her protagonists experience violence and tragic losses; as they attempt to rebuild their lives, they bear witness to the birth of a new America. In the microcosm of their small New England town, Feldman’s characters witness the invention of credit cards, suburban tract housing, a nascent Civil Rights Movement, and the conspicuous consumption of the post-war boom era. The experiences of one of the three families Feldman portrays also offer a window into the period’s anti-Semitism.
The novel is meticulously researched, with period details that enliven characters or situations that might otherwise seem stereotypical or trite.