“I always wanted a father. Any kind. A strict one, a funny one, one who bought me pink dresses, one who wished I was a boy. One who traveled, one who never got up out of his Morris chair. Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. I wanted shaving cream in the sink and whistling on the stairs. I wanted pants hung by their cuffs from a dresser drawer. I wanted change jingling in a pocket and the sound of ice cracking in a cocktail glass at five thirty. I wanted to hear my mother laugh behind a closed door.”
WWII has ended, and for 15-year-old Evie, life in New York is pretty good. She has her best friend, and while the boy she likes seems to like another girl, she has her beautiful mom and her stepdad, the father she’s always wanted, who has returned home from the war a somewhat changed man, but still a man she loves and respects.
Then phone calls start to come from others, looking for him, and he packs the family up in the middle of the night and disappears to Palm Beach for an indefinite vacation. They make friends there, with another couple visiting from New York, a mysterious hotelier and his lovely and generous wife, as well as a well-to-do young society man who runs into Evie when she decides to crash a local high school dance.
“I drove in last night,’ he said. ‘I couldn’t sleep, it was too hot. So I went outside. I was feeling melancholy. Then I danced with a beautiful girl, and I felt better. What’s your story?”
Evie falls hard for Peter, and fast. But is he who he claims to be? He begins spending an inordinate amount of time with her mother, and her stepfather seems alternately angry at him and afraid of him. But for Evie, it’s all about those stolen moments together.
“You’re a watcher, aren’t you?” Peter said. “I can tell. You watch and listen. But you know what I’m betting. The thing you can’t see so clear is yourself.” I was startled. Here I was, trying to come up with something to say about the weather, and he said something real. “What do you mean?” I asked. “You don’t walk like a girl who knows how pretty she is, for one thing. That’s a crying shame.”
This is a love story, and it’s a story about family, all set against the background of the post-war America that seemed so full of hope for so many. It’s well-written and sweet, and I can see why it was an award winner. I enjoyed the innocence of the era, and how much a fifteen year old was still considered a child then. I wish it were the same today!
The characters are likable and easy to spend time with, so this was a fast read for me – I finished it in one sitting. I am reading another historical fiction novel that is much longer and more involved and grabbed this for a “break” and it’s a good one. This would make an excellent vacation or beach read, as it’s light enough to plow through quickly, but has enough to it that it doesn’t feel like a waste of time.