Have you ever picked up a book that sounded interesting, knowing all the while that it was not really your usual style? Maybe you decide to give it a try, but you kind of prepare not to love it?
I was in that place going into Ellen Feldman's Next to Love. Described as "a story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave", the WWII-era novel captured my attention. War-themed books, even fiction ones, are not at all my favorite genre, so there has to be a good storyline to draw me and keep me reading.
Next to Love delivered the storyline I was looking for and far exceeded my expectations. I ended up enjoying this book so much that it easily moved onto my list of favorites for the year.
WWII is the catalyst for the plot of the book, but the war itself is discussed mainly as a backdrop for the real stories, those that take place at home. Babe, Millie, and Grace are childhood friends from very different backgrounds. Each has found happiness in her own way, but the war will drastically alter the direction of their lives.
The narration switches between the three characters, but Babe's experiences are the ones we see in the most detail. Though she frustrated me at times, I admired her character for staying true to herself throughout a lot of trials. I loved the reemergence of the strong and independent spirit Babe first displayed when she worked in the telegram office during the war, and it was satisfying to see her relationship come full circle, in a sense. I was happy that she found some peace in the end.
Another thing I especially enjoyed was the spot-on portrayal of the friendship between the three women. Babe, Millie, and Grace are all experiencing very different trials, they often disagree with one another, and possibly don't even like each other at times...but the friendship remains intact. Isn't that exactly the way it can be between old friends? Despite our differing situations and lifestyles, my childhood friends and I have a bond that will endure.
Beautifully written and engaging, Next to Love is a compelling story of love, loss, friendship, and redemption. I am extremely glad that I took a chance on this one.
**Digital copy received from the publisher through NetGalley. Next to Love is available now.