Reviewed by Julie Failla Earhart
Marlow’s second novel, A Life Apart, opens at the end of the story, then quickly reverts to the beginning. The beginning is December 7, 1941.
Since he was a kid, Morris Sullivan has loved ships. He built model ships as a child. After his high school girlfriend, sweetheart is too strong a word, gets pregnant, Morris marries Agnes and joins the Navy in 1940. He is stationed aboard the USS Oklahoma in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On a beautiful Sunday morning, Morris revels at how beautiful the harbor is; yet he’s also confused about his lackluster feelings for his wife and their almost-year-old baby girl, Emma. Roughly round 7 a.m., all hell breaks loose.
Morris is hit by shrapnel and is thrown into the water. As he is about to go under for the last time, a hand pulls him to safety. He spends months recuperating from his injuries and when he is able, he wants to thank the man who saved him from certain death. Robert Dobbins, an African-American, however, dies of his injuries. Morris writes Robert’s family a brief note of thanks, but when he learns that the address to notify next of kin is in his hometown, Boston, he is compelled to go visit. It’s love at first sight when his blue eyes rest on Robert’s sister, Beatrice.
Beatrice, from Mississippi, is in Boston to attend the colored teacher’s college. She feels the attraction too, but knows that a relationship between a white man and a colored woman is impossible. Morris talks Beatrice into corresponding via letters.
Upon his return, Morris tries to make a life with Agnes and Emma, but he is in too deep. He loves Emma, is fond of Agnes, and his heart belongs to Beatrice…and hers to him. The story that follows is what happens over the next 50 years.
Not only is A Life Apart a historical novel, it’s also a social and psychological history of the United States from the 1940s through the 1990s. The story is also a romance, but in the same vein as romance novels.
I highly recommend this book; I give it 5 stars.
I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.