A Star for Mrs. Blake (Paperback)

By April Smith

Vintage, 9780307948809, 352pp.

Publication Date: September 23, 2014

January 2014 Indie Next List

“A Star for Mrs. Blake highlights a little-known slice of American history. The Gold Star Mothers, whose sons died in WWI and were buried in France, were escorted to their graves years later by the U.S. Army. Mrs. Blake, a spunky and practical woman from Maine, is one of a group of mothers making the journey. These women, unlikely candidates for friendships due to differences in class and life experiences, are brought together by the great equalizer of grief. This band of women is quirky and full of fire and vinegar, and readers are right beside them every step of the way as they prove that a mother's love is indomitable.”
— karen schwettman, FoxTale Book Shoppe, Woodstock, GA
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Description

An emotionally charged historical novel based on the Gold Star Mothers.
Cora Blake never dreamed she d go to Paris. She's hardly ever left the small fishing village where she grew up. Yet in the summer of 1931, she is invited to travel to France with hundreds of other Gold Star Mothers, courtesy of the U.S. government, to say goodbye to their fallen sons, American casualties of World War I who were buried overseas.
Chaperoned by a dashing West Point officer, Cora's group includes the wife of an immigrant chicken farmer; a housemaid; a socialite; a former tennis star in precarious mental health; and dozens of other women from all over the country. Along the way, the women will forge lifelong friendships as they face a death, a scandal, and a secret revealed.


About the Author

April Smith is the author of the successful novels featuring FBI Special Agent Ana Grey as the central character. She is also an Emmy-nominated television writer and producer. In her research forA Star for Mrs. Blake, she traveled to Maine, New York City, Paris, Verdun, and the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery. Her home base is Santa Monica, California, where she lives with her husband."


Praise For A Star for Mrs. Blake

A Star for Mrs. Blake is a beautifully written, meticulously researched slice of American history. April Smith’s poignant and tender story of five courageous World War I Gold Star mothers’ amazing journey across the sea is one you will never forget.” —Fannie Flagg
 
“April Smith has written a beautiful and unforgettable novel about five Gold Star Mothers whose stories are both personal and universal. Writing A Star for Mrs. Blake must have been a labor of love and it shows on every page. Everyone who has served or is serving in the military, and also their families and friends, should read this book.” —Nelson DeMille

“Smith's gentle, evocative prose brings graceful life to a wrongly forgotten historical footnote.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A first rate novel that is well worth reading. . . . Smith has the unique ability to take a long forgotten story and craft it into a page turner. . . . She’s found an important but forgotten postscript in America’s past and has written a compelling historical novel that confronts racism, class and economic differences as well as government bureaucracy. Smith conveys all of these topics through story and characters rather than a soapbox, and her subtle approach has far more impact than the histrionics of any television or radio pundit.” —Rob Taub, The Huffington Post

“A heartfelt glimpse into a little-known episode in U.S. history. . . Smith’s historical fiction is captivating and enlightening.” —Deborah Donovan, Booklist (starred review)
 
“Captivating. . . Smith captures the mothers’ interactions in beautiful detail and delves into the government’s not-entirely-altruistic reasons for sponsoring the trip.” —Publishers Weekly
 
“Smith writes with great depth of detail and of emotion, giving voice to these Gold Star Mothers who traveled from America to their sons’ graves in France.” —Historical Novel Society

“A moving novel [that] gives readers a detailed and colorful description of life during the interim between the War to End All Wars and the next world war that quickly followed. . . This is not simply a story of grieving mothers but a story of America—rich in the lives of each of the characters who raise small boys to become part of the dream but instead bury them in a faraway land. . . The questions are posed: How do we achieve peace? What are the costs of war? Can freedom and patriotism co-exist in America? And, for us in this century, how are our lives richer for the sacrifices of those who served before us?” —Lorinda Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“Riveting. . . Smith has told this story with memorable characters and truly beautiful writing.” —Ann Lafarge, Hudson Valley News



Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. The Gold Star Mother’s group was founded after World War I. Why was President Herbert Hoover so eager to pass legislation to fund these pilgrimages? Was there more to it than wanting to honor the fallen soldiers and their mothers.generic viagra price canada
  2. Consider the Gold Star Mothers in Party A featured in April Smith’s book. How would you characterize their relationship with one another?How are the women different? How are they similar? What tensions are evident between them and what is at the root of these problems?generic viagra price canada
  3. The parents of each soldier had the choice of whether to inter their son’s remains in America or in France. What was behind Cora Blake’s ultimate decision to have her son interred in France? Do you think she was at peace with that decision?generic viagra price canada
  4. What cultural issues does the mix-up of Wilhelmina Russell and Selma Russell expose? There is documentation that some “Negro mothers” would not go on the trip when they found out they wouldn’t be treated as equals to the “white mothers.” Do you agree with these mothers’ decisions not to go?generic viagra price canada
  5. What does Smith mean when she writes of war and “the democracy of death” (page 22)? What examples are found in the book?generic viagra price canada
  6. How are the mothers treated in America? How are they received in France? What does this seem to indicate about international opinions of America’s role in the war?generic viagra price canada
  7. While much of the focus of the story is on the physical and emotional journey of each of the Gold Star Mothers, what kind of journeys do Lieutenant Thomas Hammond and Nurse Lily undertake? How do they change from the start of the pilgrimage to its conclusion? What causes these changes?generic viagra price canada
  8. The book features several expatriate characters. Does Smith indicate why these Americans are living in France? What kinds of occupations do they have? What do they share in common? What do these characters suggest about postwar living in Europe? Who are some real-life expatriates and how do they compare with Smith’s expatriates?generic viagra price canada
  9. The tension between Clancy Hayes and Griffin Reed helps to illuminate issues of ethics, propaganda, and the role of the press in determining how war is presented. How does each journalist approach the task of writing about war and its effects? Why does Reed have such a problem with Hayes? How is Reed’s version of the story of the Gold Star Mothers different than Hayes’s version? What is the overall effect of the article Reed writes? How is it received? Why is this important?generic viagra price canada
  10. There are different ideas about war expressed by the book’s characters: the mothers, the journalists, Nurse Lily, and Lieutenant Hammond.What are those ideas and how do they compare? How does General Perkins’s point of view affect our understanding of the issues at hand? Who do you sympathize with the most?generic viagra price canada
  11. American expatriate journalist Griffin Reed wears a mask because of his severe disfigurement, but this mask may also be interpreted as a symbol of secrets, the inner self, and the emotional masks we all wear. What secrets do each of the characters keep? Is one more surprising than another? Why is Cora’s telling of her story to Reed so important? Does he keep her secret? How do the characters react to the revelation or discovery of each other’s secrets?generic viagra price canada
  12. What part does legacy play in the book? Cora says that her family’s military involvement dates back to the time of the Revolutionary War. Perkins is from an army family, as is Lieutenant Hammond. How do tradition and the will to break from tradition feature as themes of the book? Consider Minnie Seibert’s reaction to the young woman on the bus. Why is Minnie so disgruntled by the young woman’s initial response to her?generic viagra price canada
  13. Each of the female characters is confronted with her own personal choices. What do their situations tell us collectively about the role of women during this time? Do the women change throughout the story, or do they continue to adhere to societal norms and roles?generic viagra price canada
  14. Evaluate the motif of pilgrimage in the book. How is a pilgrimage different from a trip? How does this categorization tie the book in with a greater thread in American history? What does this tell us about common experience? What common plights and challenges do all pilgrims face and how do they surmount these?generic viagra price canada
  15. Discuss the treatment of faith in the book. What examples of faith are found throughout? Besides religious faith, what other kinds of faith are depicted? Which characters experience a loss of their faith or a conflict of faith? Do they ever regain their faith? If so, how? At the conclusion of the book, what do the characters seem to find faith in?generic viagra price canada
  16. Many of the characters exhibit a strong sense of duty at one time or another. Does this change throughout the story? Is duty to something always external? Or are there any examples in the story of duty to one’s self?generic viagra price canada
  17. Griffin Reed says that Cora worries over “what a war mother is really supposed to do” (274). Is this question answered by the end of the book? How does Smith’s story change or confirm your own ideas about duty and sacrifice?generic viagra price canada
  18. A Star for Mrs. Blake is anchored in a footnote of history. The book is inspired by a diary of a real-life American colonel and Gold Star Mother liaison officer, but the story is from the author’s imagination.Discuss the role of truth and accuracy in historical fiction. What other books can this one be likened to? What do these books indicate about war and its effects and the way that we view them? What can a reader take away from reading about events in a novel rather than in a history book?generic viagra price canada
  19. Nelson DeMille, author of Word of Honor, said, “Everyone who has served or is serving in the military, and also their families and friends, should read this book.” Why do you think he suggests this and do you agree?generic viagra price canada
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