Previously, I have read Genevieve Graham’s Tides of Honour, which is a love story set during WWI and the Halifax Explosion. Come From Away takes place during WWII, a generation later. Danny and Audrey Baker’s children are grown – their three boys away fighting in the war and their daughter, Grace, at home with them.
Genevieve Graham likes to place her stories in the middle of historical events – in this case the presence of German U-Boats along the east coast of Canada during WWII. In the prologue, Graham explains that “between 1942 and 1944, fifteen U-boats infiltrated Canadian waters, sinking twenty-three ships”, including the passenger ferry that runs between Cape Breton and Newfoundland, killing 136 people.
Ms. Graham also explains that there are legends that persist along the Eastern shore of Nova Scotia, one of which involves a group of German U-boat sailors that snuck into a local dance. Genevieve Graham took this tale and imagined what might have come of it.
May contain a few spoilers
Grace Baker feels at odds, like she should be doing something more useful, to help out with the war like her brothers, rather than just working in the local general store. But she loves working at the store, and her parents already have three children at war to worry about.
Grace’s narration of the story alternates with Rudi’s, a German sailor who goes to the local dance and ends up dancing with Grace. When Rudi’s U-boat gets destroyed, he is the only survivor. He finds a cabin in the woods well stocked with trapping equipment, and from time to time he goes into “town” to trade his furs for provisions at the store, where he and Grace further their acquaintance.
Rudi is eventually found out, and the Baker family has to decide whether or not to let him hide out on their property. Is he a spy? Can they trust him? And how does Grace feel knowing that the man she’s falling in love with is a Nazi?
Fans of Tides of Honour will be happy to get back to the Baker family. And fans of historical novels will enjoy this unique setting. I found the quiet home front setting enjoyable to read about… with family members wondering and worrying about the war and their loved ones; imagining the worst yet hoping for the best. And Grace’s three brothers all make an appearance, bringing in discussion about the effects of war on soldiers and their families.
Because of the nature of Grace and Rudi’s relationship, there’s also an exploration of good versus bad. The allied countries are taught that the Germans are nasty and evil, and that there’s no such thing as a good Nazi. It’s hard to change your perspective when you have hard evidence in front of you of what the German’s have done to your sons/brothers/husbands. In reality, Rudi may have been worse off, but we’re talking about the Bakers here, right? And in Genevieve Graham’s books (so far), love has always conquered all.
I now know what I’m going to get when I read a novel by Genevieve Graham – a love story, some Canadian history, a quick read, a little sap, and a happy ending. I have enjoyed my time with all her books, and look forward to the next one! (I hear the next one might involve Mounties, the Klondike, and the coal mines of Crowsnest Pass.)
I love this first line: The bittersweet truth these days was that there was a lot less laundry to hang.
My review of Promises to Keep, Genevieve Graham’s novel about the Acadian Expulsion.
The Miramichi Reader: “Readers will be happy to have Danny, Audrey, the twins Harry and Eugene and little Norman back in a story of wartime allegiances, tragedy, love and family values.”
Literary Hoarders: “How they build their relationship, overcome the obstacles they face and give themselves over to feelings for each other made for some lovely reading.”
Reading in Winter: “I highly recommend Genevieve Graham’s historical books. They have amazing and wonderful characters, and also weave stories of eastern Canada’s history so well that you can’t help but want to come back for more.”