THIS SIDE OF THE SKY
This is a sprawling, ambitious saga about two women, lifelong friends, who live through World War II and its aftermath, and the men in their lives. That may sound overly familiar, but the novel offers a very important difference: the two women are black, from rural Mississippi; they spend the war as WACs in London and later in Europe—and the lover of one of them is a thoroughly decent German prisoner of war sent to work in the fields in the Deep South. Lilian, the woman with the German lover, is very black, and also resolute and hard-working; her best friend from school days, Myraleen, is a light-skinned beauty who can, and often does, pass for white, and who is sharp, sardonic and unforgiving. Debut novelist Singleton has an economical, restrained style that is particularly effective in moments of high drama and wartime action, but which is otherwise a little laid back for the emotional punch her story often delivers—and her chapters from the point of view of Kellner, the German POW, lack the conviction of the rest. Still, this is an often warming and poignant story of a seldom-visited side of the war, one that is well worth knowing. (Oct.)
Forecast:BlueHen's program of discovery of new novelists has unearthed a writer whose book will certainly speak to black readers and should appeal to a range of white ones, too.