Summary and book reviews of News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt

News of Our Loved Ones

by Abigail DeWitt

News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt X
News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2018, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Dec 2019, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jordan Lynch
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About this Book

Book Summary

Set in France and America, News of Our Loved Ones is a haunting and intimate examination of love and loss, beauty and the cost of survival, witnessed through two generations of one French family, whose lives are all touched by the tragic events surrounding the D-Day bombings in Normandy.

What if your family's fate could be traced back to one indelible summer?

Over four long years, the Delasalle family has struggled to live in their Nazi occupied village in Normandy. Maman, Oncle Henri, Yvonne, and Françoise silently watched as their Jewish neighbors were arrested or wordlessly disappeared. Now in June 1944, when the sirens wail each day, warning of approaching bombers, the family wonders if rumors of the coming Allied invasion are true - and if they will survive to see their country liberated.

For sixteen-year-old Yvonne, thoughts of the war recede when she sees the red-haired boy bicycle past her window each afternoon. Murmuring to herself I love you, I love you, I love you, she wills herself to hear the whisper of his bicycle tires over the screech of Allied bombs falling from the sky.

Yvonne's sister, Geneviève, is in Paris to audition for the National Conservatory. Pausing to consider the shadow of a passing cloud as she raises her bow, she does not know that her family's home in Normandy lies in the path of British and American bombers. While Geneviève plays, her brother Simon and Tante Chouchotte, anxiously await news from their loved ones in Normandy.

Decades later, Geneviève, the wife of an American musician, lives in the United States. Each summer she returns to her homeland with her children, so that they may know their French family. Geneviève's youngest daughter, Polly, becomes obsessed with the stories she hears about the war, believing they are the key to understanding her mother and the conflicting cultures shaping her life.

Moving back and forth in time, told from varying points of view, News of Our Loved Ones explores the way family histories are shared and illuminates the power of storytelling to understand the past and who we are.

The War

Liberation

Sirens. Was that what she’d heard? Yvonne dreamed about air raids when there weren’t any, slept soundly through the actual warnings. At first, every siren sent the whole family racing to the cellar; they crouched together in the dark, making themselves as small as possible, their faces hidden in their knees. But after a while, they gave up going downstairs. Yvonne and her sisters, Françoise and Geneviève, climbed into Maman’s bed, burrowing into the warmth of her covers; their stepfather, Oncle Henri, paced the room. Then even that was too much trouble. There was only so much fear a body could hold. If Yvonne heard anything during the night now, she pulled the pillow over her head.

The hunger was worse, the craving for beef, pork, butter most of all. She wanted butter and marmalade on toast, buttery croissants still warm from the patisserie, a butter and ham sandwich, Maman’s kouign amann.

It did seem to her that there had been ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel begins with an epigraph from Tim O’Brien: “To go home, one must become a refugee.” What is a proper definition of home? How is this paradoxical idea relevant to the experiences of the many characters throughout the novel?
  2. Sensitive, teenaged Yvonne, in the midst of her physical hunger and her longing for a boy on a bicycle, believes that “pleasure and fear [are]...alike.” In what ways is this true?
  3. Growing up in wartime imparts a very real awareness that “we might die today.” How does this profound knowledge affect Yvonne and other characters? Is there a way such threat could be valuable?
  4. At seven years old, Geneviève is punished for being frightened when a woman is hit by a car....
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

News of Our Loved Ones may be fiction, but it is reminiscent of so many war survival stories, the legacies of which still impact us today. It is a story of war and loss, but it's also a story of family and love and how our stories shape the next generation...continued

Full Review (629 words).

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(Reviewed by Jordan Lynch).

Media Reviews

Ms. Magazine
What makes this novel compelling is the compression of the story, the variety of points of view and the sheer elegance of DeWitt’s prose as she transforms her own family’s history—and world history along with it—into a powerful act of fiction…So deeply imagined are the characters and the settings that the reader…is completely overwhelmed by the beauty and the terror.

Booklist
With masterful artistry, DeWitt weaves together the individual narratives of relations both during WWII and for decades afterward, creating a multilayered narrative of survival and redemption…Each story can stand on its own, but together they offer a powerful kaleidoscopic view of the many ways war takes its toll and the small moments of beauty it nevertheless contains.

Kirkus Reviews
Compelling…The novel successfully portrays the indelible impact of the war on people who lived through it.

Author Blurb Simon Van Booy, award-winning author of Father's Day
News of Our Loved Ones is beautifully written work, that untangles the fabric of family, and follows each thread through time, to where meaning is forged from chaos.

Author Blurb Devin Murphy, national bestselling author of The Boat Runner
DeWitt's beautiful and honest novel captures the full force of families spanning decades, wars, and oceans. Each character offers up shards of their existence until a radiant mosaic of deep longing, personal mythmaking, and remarkable endurance emerges...This powerful book will imprint itself on readers.

Author Blurb Mark Powell, author of Small Treasons
Told in multiple voices, and spanning generations, Abigail DeWitt's News of Our Loved Ones is a novel of astounding beauty, empathy, and eloquence. 'Most of the world will be too young to imagine that you ever really had a life,' laments one character. But that is not the case: here is life.

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Beyond the Book

World War II's "War Brides"

War brides walking on the deck of the SS ArgentinaNews of Our Loved Ones is a poignant tale of family and loss during World War II. The story follows members of the Delasalle family and their close friends, focusing in particular on Geneviève, the eldest daughter. Geneviève's story stretches from her hometown of Caen, France to Paris, and then eventually to America as she makes her home there with her new husband, Lieutenant Peter Miller, an American soldier who was stationed in Paris. His and Geneviève's whirlwind romance is reminiscent of the many wartime weddings between American troops and the European women that became known as "war brides."

While the term "war bride" can be used to describe any woman who marries a foreign serviceman during a time of ...

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