The Liberators of Willow Run by Marianne K Martin is a historical novel about the women in the United States who did their part during WWII by building B-24 bombers. Although there is a romance, I wouldn’t say it’s a romance novel. Don’t let that stop you from picking up this book, however, because it’s a wonderful story.
Audrey has a secret: she doesn’t really have a boyfriend who’s away fighting overseas. But that one simple lie means she can help build Liberators at the Willow Run Ford factory without anyone other than her mother questioning why she isn’t at home tending a Victory garden and looking for a husband. It’s there that she meets Nona, a black woman from Kentucky who buys every war bond she can with the hopes of later using them to pay for the college degree that will get her a teaching career.
Ruth also has a secret: although she was carted away to Crittenton Home for the remainder of her illegitimate pregnancy, she doesn’t love the man who got her pregnant and she has no intention of returning to her old life. After she delivers, she heads to Ypsilanti where she finds herself captivated by the beautiful factory worker who sits in her section of the diner a few times a week. As Ruth gets to know Audrey, it’s clear they have more in common than they would have guessed. Can they carve out a place together in a world that isn’t safe for women who love other women?
Audrey has long known she’s a lesbian, and she’s learned all too well the consequences of having that found out. She’s created a good, independent life for herself on one of best producing teams at Willow Run, and she’s not willing to risk losing it by revealing her sexuality unless she’s absolutely sure it’s safe to do so. Audrey’s fierce commitment to equality and doing what’s right leads her to befriend Nona and try to empathize with the bigotry Nona lives with every day. It also drives her to help Ruth in her mission to right an egregious wrong that she learned about at Crittenton.
Nona is just lovely. She’s smart, driven and knows the rules, doing what she needs to so she can achieve her goal of someday becoming a teacher. She understands intimately what it means to do what’s necessary to survive, and her non-judgemental attitude makes her a perfect support and confidante for Audrey (who learns through their friendship that, unlike her, not everyone gets to choose secrecy and lies for survival).
Ruth goes through so much with her pregnancy, and yet comes out of it determined to live for herself. She has the same commitment to doing what’s right that Audrey has, but without the same bad experience to make her fearful of embracing a romantic relationship. Her empathy lets her understand why Audrey would feel that way, though, and she’s equally committed to being careful about how they carry out their relationship, unwilling to court the devastating consequences of discovery.
The Writing Style
The Liberators of Willow Run is so well written, I found myself pausing to savour it. The story shifts perspective between Audrey and Ruth, with each beginning their journeys in different places, only meeting each other after Ruth has her baby. It paints a picture of life for women during WWII with vivid strokes, showing it as almost a break in time from expected gender roles, when it was okay to do unconventional work because that’s what was needed to win the war. These women were just as capable as the men around them in the factory, and sometimes even did better, faster work.
Great writing style, perfect pacing, an excellent story, and memorable characters. This book had it all and I loved every minute of it. I especially loved how it explored the idea of public vs private identities, with the women carefully choosing what information to reveal and to whom in order to live their lives safely and in a way that’s emotionally satisfying.
None at all.
The Liberators of Willow Run is one of the best books I’ve read this year and I wholeheartedly recommend it. This is a book I’ll be coming back to again and again and I’m so glad I read it.
Excerpt from The Liberators of Willow Run by Marianne K. Martin
Nearly every word she had written was a lie. Audrey Draper folded the letter, slipped it into the envelope, and addressed it to her parents.
She wasn’t staying with a friend’s family, not anymore, and she wasn’t pining for her guy in the service. Bradley Willis never stole her heart. There was no Bradley Willis. It was a lie, one of many. Audrey Draper had become a good liar.
The lights of Jack’s Ford shone through the front window of her Willow Village apartment, and Audrey checked the clock beside the bed. 5: 30. He was early this morning. Audrey scooped up her jacket and keys, snapped off the overhead light, and locked the door behind her. She returned Jack’s smile and climbed into the back seat.
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781612940793
- Publisher: Bywater Books
Marianne K Martin Online
Note: I received a free review copy of The Liberators of Willow Run by Marianne K Martin. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion I refuse to review books.