Set in a small town in Massachusetts, Next to Love follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible - while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America - from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities - and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.
Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.
Published in hardcover in July 2011.
July 17, 1944
In the year-and-a-half Babe Huggins has worked for Western Union, she has been late only once before. Maybe thats why in the months to come she will occasionally persuade herself that some premonition delayed her this morning. But in her more rational moments, she knows her tardiness has nothing to do with a sixth sense, only an unsteady hand when she draws the line down the back of her leg to simulate the seam in a nylon. The odd thing is that before the war made off with nylons, her seams were rarely straight, but this morning, she washes off the crooked line, starts over, and is late leaving for work.
The walk uptown from her parents house, where she moved back after Claude shipped out, takes fifteen minutes, and by the time she turns onto Broad Street, the clock on the stone façade of First Farmers Bank says eight-ten. As she hurries past the open door of Swallows Drug Store, she inhales the familiar mix of fresh ...
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All three women are relatively wealthy but do not spend excessively. What do you think this says about the beginning of the most prosperous period in America’s history and our own era?
I agree with ElizabeyhW. My parents were of that generation and nevertheless were always fearful that the depression would return. - pschulze
Any characters in the book you think were intentionally named according to their personalities in Next to Love?
Morris may, or may not have been intentionally named. In my opinion that name isn't a go-for-it hero's designation. Makes me think a rather wish-washy person. - Suzanne
Can you sympathize with King's heartbreak and loss despite his poor treatment of returning vets?
I agree. He was not a good man to start off. The interesting question is shuffle brief talk with Jack. - Peggy H
Considering the era, do you think Babe could have found better ways to cope with Claude’s problems?
Thank you, Suzanne, for the story about your brother. I cannot tell you how many e-mails I have had from readers telling about their fathers and uncles and grandfathers who came home from the war, seemingly all right on the outside, but who ended up... - EllenFeldman
Do you think Grace and Millie really believed that they were protecting their children, or were they merely justifying their own predilections?
michellleh -- I found that interesting as well. Perhaps she felt it was necessary to get the reader's attention. Their responses certainly reflected their own feelings of grief and loss. And she also showed us the effect on the children -- which ... - kathrynk
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