I’ll Be Seeing You – An Epistolary Novel
Once upon a time people used to write letters. I mean hand-written letters from one heart to another. Then sent it through the mail, to be delivered right to your door, and read in your private place as though that person were right there in the room with you. How can I explain it? There’s just something so much more personal about receiving a hand written letter, than one typed and edited, delivered through a computer. Before social media. Before television. Before life got too busy to put pen to paper, people stayed in touch by writing letters.
When I first came to Canada back in 1966, I used to stay in touch with my friends back in England, through letters. Even at ten years old, I loved to write. It was a wonderful way to find out what all my friends were doing, and to share my experiences of my new country. Much like they did when Canada was first settled and the only way to stay in touch with you family back home was to write a letter.
Letters between women are particularly powerful as it allows them to share things with a pen pal that they wouldn’t necessarily share with a friend face to face. In the novel, I’ll Be Seeing You, by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan, two very different women, pen letters to each other during the Second World War while their husbands are away fighting. There’s newly married Glory from Massachusetts, and the mature Rita from Iowa. Neither have met, but are brought together by chance as a way to support each other through the war. Over time, their letters and their friendship, becomes essential to the other as they navigate the vagaries of war on the home front.
I absolutely fell in love with Glory and Rita and their neighbours, while they each struggled with the realities of war in a very human way. Neither woman is perfect, but as the years go by, they help each other to make the sometimes difficult choices necessary when their world has been turned upside down.
What is equally interesting about this novel of two women, who have never met, holding each other up through a very difficult time in history, is that it is written by two women, who have also never met, but are each writing one of the characters. What a great concept. They were able to support each other through the plotting and planning of the novel, and give each other a much needed push through rough spots in the writing.
The dictionary definition of support is: to endure bravely or quietly. And that is just what Glory and Rita did for each other, and their family. When there was no-one else around to hear their truth. When their world became too much to bear, and they spent their time being brave for others, it was essential to have a friend in the background who was there for them in their time of need. This story speaks to me of the power of women’s friendship. A lovely read.