Shelby Pratt was fired from her waitressing job at an upscale restaurant because a diner took umbrage with the service and the food. To add to her misery, her grandmother, Lucille, broke her hip and had to move to a rehabilitation facility, and Shelby agreed to temporarily move into Lucille’s home. She also agreed to work in her father’s architectural firm but, knowing it’s not what she wants to do with her architectural degree, put the start date off for a few months.
Gwen Lawford is the director of a small museum located on the grounds of the World War II Navy shipyard in Alameda. Gwen, although not the cause of Shelby being fired, feels guilty anyway because she was having dinner with the responsible party.
The two women, Shelby and Gwen, begin spending time together and find they have mutual interests in research and historic items. When Gwen finds an old World War II-era journal tucked away in a box of items donated to the museum, she can’t help but read it. What she finds in the journal is a love story between two women, one a sailor, the other a riveter in the Navy shipyard, who are having an affair. It doesn’t take her long to figure out she knows one of the women in the journal.
McCoy has written a fascinating story that takes place in 1944 and 2011, and seamlessly moves between the two stories. She takes us back to the heady days of women stepping up to help their country in the time of war as they assume jobs that had, only a few years earlier, been the exclusive domain of men. There was rationing of sugar, butter, and gasoline, and a no-toleration policy regarding homosexuals in the military.
The author has fully developed the characters in both stories. The four main characters are artfully drawn. The secondary characters, Shelby’s grandmother, mother, and an older retired career Navy woman named Skipper, are finely drawn as well and are minor characters only in the amount of time McCoy has given them in the story.
The amazing thing about McCoy’s handling of this story is the ease with which she moves between the two dissimilar eras. She has clearly done her research and has the speech patterns down, even to the slang used in 1944. She was able to detail the underlying homophobia that Navy personnel faced, the witch hunts that occurred within all branches of the service as they tried to weed out the homosexuals, and the fear that the gays in the military lived with about being found out.
This is also a tale of love. Love in 1944 between two women who must make decisions that they know will hurt, but that will also be best for all concerned. It is also the not-so-dissimilar tale of love in 2011 when a woman makes a split decision to protect a parent from knowing she’s a lesbian and devastates her lover.
Even if you hated history in high school, you can read this book without fear of your historiphobia rising. You’ll find it fascinating to read about “real” Rosie the Riveters and what they faced. This is a wonderful love story of four women, two from the past, two from the present, who find enduring love.
For Me and My Gal
by Robbi McCoy Bella Books Paperback, 9781594932281, 286 pp. May 2011