Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion

Sara Pisak, Opinion Editor

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Grand Central: Original Stories of Postwar Love and Reunion is an anthology of World War II love stories complied by author Kristina McMorris. With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, it is the perfect read.

The anthology features the original work of ten recent best-selling female authors. Some of the stories are the equivalent of a short story, while others are the length of a novella. Each story presents a complete and memorable work in an average of 30 pages.

The authors who have had their short works included within the anthology are: Melanie Benjamin, Jenna Blum, Amanda Hodgkinson, Pam Jenoff, Sarah McCoy, Kristina McMorris, Alyson Richman, Erika Robuck and Karen White. Many avid readers will be familiar with at least some of the women featured. Personally, I am familiar with Melanie Benjamin, author of The Aviator’s Wife; Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us; and Amanda Hodgkinson, author of 22 Britannia Road. My familiarity with these authors was one of the reasons influencing my purchase of Grand Central.  

As the back cover of the book informs, each of the stories has a unique element: every story is set on the day after World War II ends at Grand Central Station in New York. Readers might believe love stories, all having an identical setting, would be boring and tedious.

These readers would be wrong because the authors each employ their own unique writing style to bring the New York landmark to life. Each author utilizes the setting differently. Some authors flashback, or flash-forward to other times and places in their characters’ lives, while others never leave the iconic station. No matter the technique each author utilizes, it is safe to say every story is well written and effectively works to showcase women as a powerful and driving force behind the World War II war effort.

Kristin Hannah’s introduction to the text speaks to the power of women during this turbulent wartime in American history. Hannah explains, she is currently writing a book whose female character states, “We women were in the shadows of the war. There were no parades for us and few medals.”

Hannah goes onto to give her character’s statement context. Hannah informs, “In too much of our war fiction, women are forgotten, and yet the truth of their participation is fascinating and compelling and deserves to be at the forefront of the discussion about the aftermath of the war.”

Grand Central places Hannah’s sentiments into full motion, weaving several narratives in which women are no longer pushed aside and ignored when discussing their historical contributions. In fact, Hannah and her fellow authors have created females characters which demand respect and will not allow themselves to fade into the background.

It is these strong characters which allow for each story to grab the reader’s attention. Compiling an anthology of recent, bestselling authors ensures the stories are all well written but personally the standout stories are based on the varying characterizations.

My favorites within this anthology include “I’ll Walk Alone” and “The Reunion.” In the briefest of terms, “I’ll Walk Alone” follows the journey of an anxious woman through Grand Central Station. She dreads the return of her abusive husband as she much rather the peaceful new life she has created for herself and her son; whereas “The Reunion” focuses on female fighter pilots returning home after risking their lives.

Although “I’ll Walk Alone” and “The Reunion” are two of my favorite stories, all of the works share a concise setting which not only links the anthology together in a unique way but allows a prominent landmark to shine a light on a historical time period as well as allows each female protagonist to command well-deserved attention.

Admittedly, I am not a fan of romance novels. However, I will gladly make an exception in the case of Grand Central. Although the novel is fundamentally linked by love, it would be a gross injustice to ignore the powerful female characters (there are no damsels in distress here), the historical setting and the contribution of including women in a literary genre in which they would have otherwise been forgotten.

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