Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Yesterday's Tomorrow by Catherine West

One of my favorite reads this year, Yesterday’s Tomorrow is an incredibly moving story of love and loss, doubt and faith, and suffering and hope during the Vietnam War.  Through the eyes of journalist Kristin Taylor, who goes to Vietnam to follow in the footsteps of her beloved father and to keep an eye on her brother, Teddy, the suffering on both sides of this terrible conflict is made painfully real, while the hope in love is beautifully presented.  Everything about this exceptional novel, from the amazing character development to the rich historical detail made it unputdownable for me, and I admit it brought tears to my eyes more than once.

Although I wasn’t born until near the end of US involvement in this conflict and my knowledge of it comes predominantly from history classes and more modern discussions on the horrible toll, physical and emotional, that resulted for all involved, what I found even more significant about author Catherine West’s gifted storytelling was that Yesterday’s Tomorrow doesn’t only vividly portray the heartrending result of the Vietnam War for main characters Kristin and Luke and their family and relationships, it also gives the reader a greater understanding of and sympathy for the tragedy that is war itself for all people in all times.  In other words, though West paints a realistic picture of the given time and place in this story, she also manages to give a sense that this story could have taken place and that these people could have been involved in any war in any time and in any place – and I consider that a great strength in a story, as it makes it possible for any reader of any age, and whether they’ve personally endured or have known someone who has endured the effects of war or not, able to relate and empathize.
At the same time, despite the reality of suffering, this novel does not come across as hopeless and dark, but just the opposite.  Through every one of Kristin and Luke’s trials, through their mistakes and their successes, in their struggle with doubt and in their growing faith, hope and the ability to overcome shines through the darkness.  And while the story is filled with passion and emotion, their tumultuous relationship, as it grows into love and shapes their faith, also imparts a sense of the quiet peace that comes from learning who we truly are and what we truly want and need in life.

I can’t recommend this novel enough for the beautiful writing, the perfect mix of historical fiction and romance and the wonderful character development that makes the reader think he or she may, in fact, be reading a true story.  I feel so fortunate I was able to read this Grace Awards finalist novel and I definitely look forward to reading more works by this outstanding author.

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