War, Spies & Bobby Sox (Stories About World War II at Home) by Libby Fischer Hellmann


Reviewed by Teri Davis

War, Spies and Bobby Sox“The volume of literature about World War Two has both fascinated and intimidated me. I suspect its popularity comes from the fact that it was the last time there was clarity between good and evil.”

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The Incidental Spy” is the story of Lena, a German Jewish refugee as she begins her new life in Chicago during 1935. Lena is fortunate to be sponsored by her aunt whose husband is a mathematics professor the University of Chicago. Immediately, she is enrolled in English and typing classes and quickly becomes a secretary in the physics department at the University. Naturally, it is hard knowing what is happening to the rest of her family a continent away. With erratic communication, the constant strain of her parents’ hardships, as well as her first love, are trying. Do you move on or wait?

P.O.W.” revolves around eighteen-year-old Mary-Catherine who works on the family farm along with her mother, little sister, and brother. With her father being drafted to fight in the war three years ago, every member of the household is needed to keep the farm being productive. With a prison being nearby, Mary-Catherine’s mother hires the P. O. W.s to help with picking apples. What her mother forgot was Mary-Catherine’s age and her natural attraction to handsome men, especially one’s who might take advantage of her innocence.

The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” involves a beautiful Jewish woman who is murdered while living as an actress in Chicago.

Libby Fischer Hellman has written numerous novels including her Georgia Davis series, Ellie Foreman series, a historical novel set in Cuba, a story of revolutionary Iran, and life in the late sixties in Chicago. This Chicago resident has won numerous award including being nominated for two Anthony Awards, an Agatha, two times for the Foreword Reviews Thiller of the Year and many nominations for the Lovey Award.

War, Spies and Bobby Sox consist of three novellas in varying lengths. The first and longest one, “The Incidental Spy” is an enthralling novella incorporating the development of the bomb while viewing Chicago through the immigrant eyes of a woman who is both German and Jewish. Conflicted loyalties regularly trouble Lena, the protagonist.

P. O. W. is unquestionably a story that likely actually happened in some form. The German and Italian prisoners in this country were constantly troubled about whether their futures were here or back in Germany. Most were treated better here than in their country. The conflicted loyalties had to have been problematic for both those who interacted with the prisoners and the prisoners.

The strength in these stories are the personal and realistic voices of these strong and independent women. The plots are well-organized and intriguing while based on actual events of Chicago between 1935 and 1942.

Libby Hellman has created the perfect novel traveling back to another time and place.