In This Together by Gail Kittleson is a wonderful Christian historical novel set in Iowa in the aftermath of the war and I absolutely loved it. In This Together is a story that really wrapped itself around me and spoke to my heart.
In This Together focuses on Dottie and Al, both of whom have lost so much… both their spouses died and Dottie’s son Bill got killed in World War II. They have every reason to be bitter but they are delightful, enjoying each day as it comes. “Makes you think – makes you appreciate things more.” The two neighbours have a half full glass outlook on life. They are in their twilight years but have a very positive outlook. They enjoy life and laughter.
The novel is an everyday story of small town America, telling tales of friendship. It is a beautiful, gentle story of life and second chances.
Gail Kittleson does not shy away from difficult subjects as the book touches on the internment of Japanese citizens following Pearl Harbour. How their lives were disrupted in spite of many of them being born in America. Other citizens suffered from harassment due to their nationality or even just the origin of their surnames. People were isolated through no fault of their own. Dottie and Al have no prejudices towards others, they open their arms and their hearts to everyone, just as God intended us to live.
In This Together also deals with the trauma of PTSD, at a time when it would not have been recognised. Al is a World War One veteran, the horrors he saw thirty years ago have not left him. Nightmares, loud noises, fires – all these and more will transport him back to the trenches. Al will need love and understanding to help him heal. Al tries to hide his horrors and suffer alone.
Within the novel there is the theme of money. Money is not a bad thing but love of money is the root of all evil. Helene has money and is obsessed with it. She believes that money and appearances makes you more or less important. She is chasing happiness in the form of the next new fashion or beauty fix.
People are the most important. They are what make life worthwhile. Both Al and Dottie recognise the treasures that are to be found in others. They will go out of their way to help people in need. Within them the reader can see faith and deeds in action. They contrast with the attitude of Helena. “To her (Helena), he (George) was just another bundle of cash every month.” Helena does not see people. Helena sees dollar signs.
The theme of family is prevalent within the book. Family is not just your flesh and blood relatives. Family is everyone around you. Al and Dottie open their homes and hearts to the lost and the hurting, fulfilling the commandment to take care of the widows and orphans. Dottie still has a fierce protective mother’s love for her grown up girls. “It was harder to forgive wrongs done to your child than to yourself.” She reminds me of a mother lion who will protect her cubs at all cost.
The novel shows the importance of building people up. Bonnie Mae has been told she has been trouble since she was born. Her mother was unmarried and at that time there was an awful stigma attached to illegitimate children. Dottie however points out “I would say she (Bonnie Mae) had nothing to do with the circumstances of her birth.” Dottie sees the gem that is inside Bonnie Mae and she takes her under her wing, coaxing the treasure inside her to come out.
Gail Kittleson highlights the need to put out the flames of gossip. Gossiping and judging others will destroy not only others lives but also the life of the gossip as they tend to live in the past discussing past faults and failures. “She (Helene) clings to yesterday and it makes her miserable. But you (Bonnie Mae) can choose to be happy.” This demonstrates that our emotions are to be owned by us and not others. We can choose to be happy and move into the future instead of wallowing in the past.
All the descriptions within the novel are wonderfully painted. The town, its people and the countryside really came to life for me. Gail Kittleson draws a delightful portrait of small town living with all its various quirky characters. I loved getting to know them all as they recovered from World War II. There were some beautifully touching moments. The small details were all intimately portrayed. Life is for living now whatever your age. Laughter and promise can still be part of the twilight years.
Gail Kittleson is a new author to me. I do so love her writing which is reminiscent of Jan Karon’s Mitford, where I love the town and its characters. In This Together is totally charming and delightful, if you have not read it, then you are missing out. It is a perfect read and now I have finished, I am missing Al and Dottie already.
Give yourself a treat and read it today.
I received this book for free in exchange for a fair and honest review. No monetary compensation was received and all views expressed are my own.
Julia, thank you for this wonderful review of Gail’s novel “In This Together.” I have just bumped this up to the top of my TBR list because it takes place during a time when I was a very young child and I saw some of the aftermath of the war through the things that my parents relayed in their own lives. It took place before the “Happy Days” of the 1950’s which is the part of my growing up that, thankfully, I remember the most, but the shadow of the war years were real and they were there. j