[FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not asked to review this book and I purchased my own copy. I am interested in reading books about World War II which are based upon real letters since I have worked to transcribe and publish my own grandparents’ letters as well.]
He Wrote Her Every Day: A Novel Based on a WWII Soldier’s Letters to His Wife. By Gail Lindenberg. Published by CreateSpace Independent Publishing; revised second edition, 2014. 300p. Photographs. Paperback $12.99, Kindle eBook $6.99. ISBN: 978-1492358657.
He Wrote Her Every Day is a tribute to James William Hendrickson, Jr., who served in the Army during World War II. Years later, author Gail Lindenberg received an old box containing her father’s letters from her widowed mother. The resulting book is part historical fact, imagined fiction based upon the letters, and a memoir of her time spent interviewing her mother about the war years. Lindenberg describes the letters in the book’s preface. ”Thin and fragile envelopes line up in regimented files within the brown box as though awaiting inspection. Each pale soldier, a sentinel of time past, stands at attention still.”
The narrative is essentially told from three points of view: edited transcriptions of the letters, a retelling of the personal journey the author took while retrieving the letters and interviewing her mother, and a fictional (though well-researched) narrative that fleshes out the story between the letters and various oral histories of family members. Eventually, the transitions work seamlessly, but early on in the novel, some of the transitions are too jumpy, breaking the reader’s flow. The novel hits its stride in the second half, when the narrative focuses more on the letters and the fictional narrative. The memoir portions of the story are less intrusive or necessary to the events on the battlefield, and become mostly non-existent. The reader is also warned that the book does not contain every letter that PFC Hendrickson wrote during his deployment; the book’s title is somewhat misleading although images of all the letters can be found on the author’s website.
The book is illustrated with a few photographs of PFC Hendrickson, but a future edition of the book would benefit from the inclusion of some graphics, visual aids, and organizational tools. To name a few examples: the book does not contain an index or a table of contents; it lacks charts of the Hendrickson or Ison families; and timelines of the war in Europe and Hendrickson’s involvement are not included. Within the narrative, several websites were referenced and the book would benefit from a complete bibliography of sources.
Any self-published book has additional burdens placed upon it by its very nature. He Wrote Her Every Day is clearly a work dear to the author’s heart. This World War II story is familiar to many Americans, even if the names are different. While the story was clearly researched and written well, the book would have benefited from more careful editing and formatting of the text. Margins were not justified as one would find in a typical book. Minor punctuation errors, especially with quotation marks, occasionally left this reviewer re-reading passages trying to determine who the speaker was. Odd spaces occur at the bottom of pages, or within paragraphs.
Despite (or in spite of) the non-traditional formatting of this book, the story between James W. Hendrickson and his wife, Irene, is the true heart of this book. The letters and narrative convey the love of this couple and how they endured their separation during the war. Anyone interested in the personal stories of World War II soldiers, in their own words, should enjoy this book. Additional resources beyond the book, including images of the actual letters, can be found at the author’s website: www.HeWroteHerEveryDay.com
©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/03/24/book-review-he-wrote-her-every-day/