I Gave My Heart to Know This Summary and Reviews

I Gave My Heart to Know This

A Novel

by Ellen Baker

I Gave My Heart to Know This by Ellen Baker X
I Gave My Heart to Know This by Ellen Baker
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  • Published Aug 2011
    336 pages
    Genre: Literary Fiction

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Book Summary

Ellen Baker is beloved for crafting intimate domestic stories that resonate deeply with readers. In I Gave My Heart to Know This, the award-winning author returns with a sweeping multigenerational saga of the searing power of war, memory, friendship, and family.

In January 1944, Grace Anderson, Lena Maki, and Lena's mother, Violet, have joined the growing ranks of women working for the war effort. Though they find satisfaction in their jobs at a Wisconsin shipyard, it isn't enough to distract them from the anxieties of wartime, or their fears for the men they love: Lena's twin brother, Derrick, and Grace's high school sweetheart, Alex. When shattering news arrives from the front, the lives of the three women are pitched into turmoil. As one is pushed to the brink of madness, the others are forced into choices they couldn't have imagined - and their lives will never be the same. 

More than five decades later, Violet's great-granddaughter, Julia, returns to the small farmhouse where Violet and Lena once lived. Listless from her own recent tragedy, Julia begins to uncover the dark secrets that shattered her family, eventually learning that redemption - and love - can be found in the most unexpected places. 

Beautifully written and profoundly moving, I Gave My Heart to Know This is a riveting story of loyalties held and sacred bonds broken, crushing loss and enduring dreams, and what it takes - and what it means - to find the way home.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Baker is at her best describing a bone-deep cold Lake Superior and the lives of the women who labored over ships as a rare but powerful part of history." - Publishers Weekly

"Masterfully portraying the harsh realities of women's newly acquired role in the wartime workplace, Baker's family saga brims with gothic undertones." - Booklist

"Ellen Baker's novel is large in the best sense: large in its generous spirit, and in its gallery of vivid, memorable characters. It possesses, as well, an abundance of intelligence, and great shrewdness in its pure story-telling appeal. This novel has a naturalness and finesse that are truly rare." - Richard Ford, author of The Lay of the Land

"What a rich offering this is! Ellen Baker gives us characters who are so real, so recognizable, so likable, in spite of (or perhaps because of) their problems and secrets and frustrations and missteps, and she presents them against a story line that is epic in scope. We move from you-are-there scenes of watching young women work in the shipyards during World War II, to the unraveling of long-held mysteries in the present day. I really loved reading this powerful and poignant book, which, though it acknowledges pain, regret and remorse, ultimately is a celebration of life." - Elizabeth Berg, author of Once Upon a Time, There Was You and Open House

"A great big rich and romantic slice of World War II history that chronicles the lives of three Wisconsin women left behind on the home front to carry on without the men they love. It is a loving tribute to their courage, the sacrifices they made, and their tremendous contributions to the American war effort." - Fannie Flagg, author of I Still Dream About You

"Give your heart to Ellen Baker's beautifully made new novel about stern people and the stern toll of urgent words never said. From the hard-bitten bluffs of Lake Superior to the coast of California, from World War II to the present day, the mothers and daughters of two Midwestern families of immigrant stock race against time and history to break down a wall of lies, before it is too late." - Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean

"Ellen Baker is a brilliant writer, and I Gave My Heart to Know This is a marvelous novel. Moving between past and present, the book weaves Baker's themes of secrecy, betrayal, and forgiveness into a powerful, unforgettable story. I loved the characters so completely I began to think of them as my own family and friends." - Bev Marshall, author of Walking Through Shadows

This information about I Gave My Heart to Know This was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Ellen Baker

Ellen Baker grew up in Wisconsin, Illinois, and South Dakota. She has worked as a costumed living history interpreter, a curator of a World War II museum, and as a bookseller and event coordinator at an independent bookstore. She lives in Minnesota. You can visit her website at www.ellenbakernovels.com.

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