During World War II, women played an integral role in the fight for freedom, not on the battlefields where their fathers, brothers, husbands, sweethearts, et al. were fighting, but back at home. Women left their roles as wives and homemakers, and took jobs that directly supported the war effort.
In Seattle, the Boeing Plant 2 was large enough for eight football fields to fit inside it. The plant was camouflaged by a residential neighborhood constructed on its roof, designed to fool any Japanese bombers who might navigate into the airspace over Seattle. During the War, as many as sixteen B-17 Flying Fortress bombers were produced there daily — around 7,000 total — largely due to the efforts of the “Rosie the Riveters” who worked on the assembly line for $.65 per hour.
Ironically, the old plant is set to be demoished this year, given that no planes have been manufactured there for over 40 years. But history will never forget Boeing Plant 2 or the “Rosie the Riveters” who toiled there with the hope that their contribution would help bring America’s soldiers home safely. Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss have memorialized that time, place, and some of the actual events that transpired there in a charming new work of Christian historical fiction.
Welcome to Litfuse Publicity’s Blog Tour for Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington
The year is 1943 and America is at war. Rosalie Madison was engaged to her childhood sweetheart, Vic, but did not marry him before he was called into battle. Now she feels extremely guilty about having hesitated, especially since the chance to marry him has been forever lost to her. She is determined to assuage her guilt and honor Vic’s memory by working at the Boeing Plant 2 in Seattle as a riveter.
En route to work at the plant, Rosalie stops at Victory Square and literally runs into an ambitious local newspaper reporter who has been dispatched to get candid photos of movie star Lana Turner as she takes the stage during a personal appearance there. Rosalie has a very low opinion of journalists — that was her estranged father’s profession. Her father’s habit of abandoning his family to chase after the next big story, leaving broken hearts and promises in his wake, has left Rosalie determined never to trust a reporter.
But Kenny Davenport is charming and kind-hearted, and Rosalie is definitely attracted to him. When Turner spots the two of them in the crowd, arguing loudly, she assumes that they are quarreling lovebirds. Spurred on by Kenny’s friend, Nick, the bassist in the band performing with Turner, she pulls Rosalie and Kenny on stage. The moment is captured in the local newspaper, and Kenny’s editor decides that a whole series of articles about the beautiful young riveter are in order. Or else. If Kenny doesn’t get publicity-shy Rosalie to agree to be the subject of the articles, not only will he not get a chance to write the meaningful story he has been pitching to his boss, he will be fired.
Meanwhile, Rosalie and some of her fellow riveters face homelessness. The apartment building in which they live is about to be torn down and they have 30 days to find a new home. Miss Tilly, proprietor of The Golden Nugget coffee shop, owns a dilapidated old house in Victory Heights. If Rosalie and her fellow riveters can build B-17 Flying Fortress bombers, Miss Tilly figures they should be able to tackle dry rot, peeling paint, broken windows, and the house’s other problems in order to save it from condemnation. If the women can fix the house up, she will let them make it their new home. But money is tight and supplies are being rationed. Can they save the old house where Kenny spent so much time as a young man, including during his college years when he stayed there with the woman he calls Aunt Tilly?
Can Rosalie learn to trust Kenny, despite his profession, and give in to her feelings for him? Can Kenny understand what it means to engage in work that will make both one’s family and oneself proud and fulfilled?
Against the backdrop of actual events, Goyer and Fleiss have created a cast of fictional characters that are convincingly authentic. Painstakingly researched and accurate to the last detail, Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington draws the reader back through the decades to a time when Americans were united in a common goal and everyone was called upon to do his/her part to bring about victory.
Some historians refer to those days as a “simpler time” in U.S. history because, unlike during subsequent conflicts, there was no anti-war sentiment, and demonstrations against America’s war efforts were completely unheard of. But as members of my generation — children of the men and women who lived through and fought during World War II — know from the stories we heard growing up, those days were anything but simple. My own father — Kenny Hickok — was drafted in 1942 and served in Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines while my mother waited for his return on her family’s farm in South Dakota. My father spoke little and infrequently of his days in the U.S. Army Air Corps, but my mother told many stories about what it was like for her, waiting for his letters to arrive as she heard news reports about the various battles, wondering where he was and if he was safe.
Rosalie is motivated by powerful past events in her life, including her own father’s disregard for his family. And she has been emotionally damaged by the deaths of the other two important men in her life: Her brother was killed during the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor and her fiancee, Vic, died flying a mission in a B-17 that bore her name and likeness. She is understandably full of pent-up anger, resentment, regret, and wracked with guilt about the fact that she could not bring herself to marry Vic before he left — and planned to break off their engagement when he returned. She feels very much alone, even though she lives among a lively group of plant coworkers, and believes that she can overcome her fears and sadness by working hard at the plant, building planes that will help defeat the enemy so that no other women need to suffer the kind of losses she has endured.
Kenny, meanwhile, is dealing with his own share of guilt. His father, a chaplain, has been injured while serving and his family knows only that he survived, but is not yet aware of the magnitude of his injuries. Kenny promised this father that, rather than enlisting, he would get a job in a big city where he would have an opportunity to write important newspaper stories that “make a difference.” Instead, he has been reduced by his editor, Mr. Bixby, to writing fluff pieces. He is driven by his desire to write a story that will expose the need for contractors to be accorded the same benefits and assistant as veterans, but it looks like the story might be assigned to his arch rival at the newspaper unless he can convince Rosalie to be the subject of articles focused upon “Seattle’s Own Rosie the Riveter.”
Goyer and Fleiss expertly examine the emotional struggles their characters are facing by revealing their inner dialogue, as well as their silent prayers. The story is told from a distinctly Christian viewpoint — not only is Kenny revealed at the outset to be a man with a deep and abiding faith, Miss Tilly is responsible for leading Rosalie back to her faith through a conversation in which Rosalie feels safe enough to reveal her tumultuous feelings to the kindly older woman. The narrative is also replete with references to the main characters’ desire to see their friends and coworkers become believers. Changes that come about in Kenny and Rosalie’s lives are attributed to God having led them in a particular direction and toward a specific result. Thus, lacking in this story is some of the introspection and self-focused analysis of the main characters’ motivations and the rationale underlying their decisions that epitomizes secular fiction. Rather, the characters in Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington tend to react to situations and events, agonize about their conduct, and then find resolution through adherence to their faith, just as they find forgiveness from each other in the same manner.
The story is mesmerizing because the characters are intriguing and relatable, whether or not the reader shares their religious outlook. Kenny and Rosalie are earnest, well-intentioned people confronting obstacles and challenges that are peculiar to the extraordinary time in which they live.
Goyer and Fleiss have exquisitely captured the culture and mood of the period by injecting details pertaining to actual events, such as Rosalie’s first meeting with Kenny in Victory Square: Lana Turner did, in fact, appear there in support of the war effort. The characters discuss the fact that President Roosevelt toured the plant and Rosalie proudly tells Kenny that, although she did not actually see the President, she worked on the plane that the President viewed. And there is a very poignant moment when Rosalie looks at the poster of Rosie the Riveter and ponders her own status as Seattle’s local version of that icon. Goyer and Fleiss also set the tone by describing the characters’ jaunts to a couple of the actual nightclubs that were popular in those days and the way they dance to some of the most recognizable music of that era.
Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington is a delightful look at the young lives of fictional representatives of what Tom Brokaw termed “the greatest generation.” It is not only an entertaining tale of how two people overcome past hurts and regrets and, through grace, forge a life together, it is also an informative glimpse into how the residents of one region of this country contributed their time and talent in support of U.S. troops who were fighting on various battlefields around the world. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction written from a Christian perspective.
I read Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington free of charge from the authors as part of the Litfuse Publicity review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”