“Thanks for coming to the game.”
Cornelia looked up. “You’re welcome. But I have a confession. I’m not really fond of baseball.”
“I know. But hey, we all have our faults.”
Cornelia swatted Henry’s arm.
“That’s why I appreciate you coming so much,” he said. “And even if you’re not . . . well . . . it’s still a lot more fun when you’re there.”
Crickets chirped in the nearby grass. Henry took Cornelia’s two hands into his own, and they stood facing each other quietly. She wished more than anything that the moment could last.
“Good night, Corrie,” Henry said simply. “I’ll see you soon.”
Cornelia went inside, but stayed at the screen door, watching as Shep followed Henry off the porch and down the driveway. When Henry turned around for one last wave, she called the dog back and he obeyed, flopping into his usual spot on the porch.
“I don’t blame you, boy,” she whispered. “I want to be with him, too.”
That night, Cornelia’s diary entry was short but to the point:
If I never meet another boy for the rest of my life, I will be perfectly happy with this one.
It’s 1939, and Canada is on the cusp of entering World War II. Seventeen-year-old farm girl Cornelia has been heartbroken since the day her mother died five years ago. As a new tragedy provides Cornelia still more reason to reject her parents’ faith, a mysterious visitor appears in her hour of desperation. Alone and carrying a heavy secret, she makes a desperate choice that will haunt her for years to come. Never telling a soul, Cornelia pours out the painful events of the war in her diary.
Many decades later, Cornelia’s granddaughter, Benita, is in the midst of her own crisis, experiencing several losses in the same week, including the grandmother she adored. The resulting emotional and financial stress takes its toll on her and her husband, Ken, who is unemployed. On the brink of divorce, she discovers Cornelia’s diary. Now the secrets of her grandmother’s past will lead Benita on an unexpected journey of healing, reunion, and faith.
When Cornelia’s mother dies on her twelfth birthday, she decides God is a liar and she will never forgive Him. And yet, more than seventy years later, her granddaughter, Benita, wonders what it was that made Gram’s faith so strong; what enabled her to survive the losses in her life without surrendering to bitterness?
Despite ostensibly being the story of two women, I felt as though The Silver Suitcase was really Cornelia’s story. The narrative alternates between Cornelia’s point of view in the past (as a young woman), and Benita’s point of view in the present (as a wife and mother at a time when her life seems to be coming apart at the seams), but I felt as though Benita’s point of view facilitated the closure of Cornelia’s story more strongly than it told Benita’s own story. I also thought the scenes told from Cornelia’s point of view were more engaging, particularly early on. There was an air of nostalgic simplicity that really appealed to me, and this probably helped me to connect with her more as a character.
Cornelia certainly does suffer loss during the course of her life, but the novel doesn’t spend unnecessary time dwelling on this. Although I wasn’t enamoured with the mysterious visitor method of turning Cornelia around, the rest of Cornelia’s story rang true, and I couldn’t help but feel for her and the numerous other women who have shared similar experiences.
As Benita began reading her grandmother’s diaries the story took some unexpected turns that made me wonder where the story was heading. At times the flow of events felt just a little too neatly orchestrated, but at the same time, the novel was seeking to portray God’s overarching hand in the story of these women, so I found myself a little conflicted over this aspect. Nevertheless, it was satisfying to see Cornelia’s story come full circle.
All in all, a pleasant read that made me wonder what kind of a legacy I will be leaving behind for those who follow after me.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Netgalley for the purposes of this review. I was not required to write a positive response.
Release date: 26 January 2016
Publisher: Waterfall Press
Author’s blog: http://terrietodd.blogspot.com.au/