Helen is the young widow of charismatic and popular Jim Carlisle, who died in the Pacific Theater and is one of Antioch, California’s, fallen local heroes. Helen is determined that their two-year-old son, Jay-Jay, come to know the father that he will never remember through the “Daddy Book,” a scrapbook detailing Jim’s life, that she has created for him. Her controlling father-in-law controls the proceeds from Jim’s life insurance policy, providing Helen with a monthly living allowance and permitting her to live free of charge in one of his rental properties. The arrangement allows her to devote herself to raising Jay-Jay, as well as performing the volunteer work to which she feels called. Helen has been outwardly mourning Jim for a little over a year and her in-laws now seem determined to push her into the arms of Vic, a Navy lieutenant whose mother is the town’s biggest busybody and gossip-monger. Vic has had feelings for Helen since high school, but Helen has never been interested in him.
Raymond is the oldest of Pastor and Mrs. Novak’s three sons. Ray is a minister and flight instructor with no desire to harm another human being, while his reckless younger brother, Jack, is also an Army Air Corps officer. Walt served his country as well, losing his arm, and is now employed by Boeing.
Helen finds herself drawn to Ray, and the attraction is indeed mutual. But her in-laws have made it clear that they will never approve of her marrying a Novak. There is long-standing animosity between the two families, the origin of which is a mystery to Helen. Helen bears profound emotional and psychological damage, harboring dark secrets that she has never revealed to anyone — and has no intention of revealing in order to protect the memory of her son’s father, as well as his family. Jim always said that Ray was a coward because of his gentle manner and desire to preach the Gospel, although, as a child who survived polio, Helen saw Ray as a dragon-slaying knight and even wrote fictional stories about him. Ray is well aware of how some folks around town view him, and wonders whether they are right about him. He is surely no knight in shining armor, but is he really a coward? And what exactly does it mean to be a hero? Will flying successful combat missions over Germany convince him of his own heroism and bravery? Or simply get him killed in action?
After everything she has been through, will Helen ever be able to open up to Ray and love him completely and fully, or will her unhappy past, paralyzing guilt, and emotional and psychological scars keep her from ever finding real happiness?
Blue Skies Tomorrow is the third installment in author Sarah Sundin’s Wings of Glory trilogy, the first two being A Distant Melody and A Memory Between Us. Each book focuses on a different Novak brother and his World War II experiences. Sundin was inspired to pen the series by her great-uncle who flew with the U.S. Eighth Air Force in England during World War II.
While in A Memory Between Us Jack Novak struggled with his pride and lack of desire to put his seminary training to use, Ray lacks self-confidence. He has had three serious relationships, two of which resulted in engagements, but all ended badly — he was dumped. So although he has romantic feelings for Helen, he struggles to believe that she can ever return his feelings, especially when she is reticent to let anyone in town find out that they have quietly begun dating. He is unaware, of course, of the tumultuous nature of her marriage to Jim or the extent to which Jim’s father now exerts control not only over Helen’s life and choices, but her parenting of little Jay-Jay, as well. When she attempts to discipline the little boy with a ferocious temper, Jim and his wife interfere and dote on Jay-Jay, leaving Helen to worry that the sins of his father and grandfather will become her son’s sins, as well.
I never write a novel with a message in mind, but I do hope my readers will learn from my characters’ experiences. ~ Author Sarah Sundin
Ray comes to believe that he has pushed Helen into a relationship with him too soon after Jim’s death and far too fast. When he is removed from the flight instructor post he loves and relegated to a supply position, he decides that it is time for him to resolve his own self-doubts once and for all. He will never be at peace until he finds answers to the questions about his own character and mettle that have plagued him for so long. He volunteers for combat and finds himself assigned to his brother Jack’s unit. Soon Ray is piloting a crew of men on missions in the skies over Nazi Germany. Is he up to the challenge? He learns the answer to that question as readers travel with him on a heart-stopping, pulse-pounding adventure behind enemy lines.
Meanwhile, desperate to escape her father-in-law’s tyrannical need to dictate her future, Helen accepts a position working part-time with Vic at the munitions yard in order to scrape together enough money to secure a new home where she can raise Jay-Jay without her in-laws’ constant interference. There, she learns hard lessons about racism, discrimination, and the ugly reality that in the United States justice is not yet dispensed to all in equal fashion. Worse, she discovers that Vic is not the kind of man everyone believes him to be.
In Blue Skies Tomorrow, Sundin tackles complex sociological topics, including domestic violence, women’s changing roles in the home and workplace, and their desire to maintain the independence they enjoyed while men were off fighting, deftly and with painstaking attention to historical accuracy. She skillfully examines a period of time in this country’s history about which much has already been written, putting her own unique and compelling stamp on the genre. Her main characters, Helen and Ray, are each flawed but empathetic, especially given the manner in which Sundin expertly sets the stage for and paces revelations about the abuse that Helen endured during her marriage to Jim. Helen’s grieving widow facade crumbles as her feelings for Ray grow stronger; meanwhile, Ray is exorcising his own demons as they correspond, opening up to each other through the letters they exchange. As in the other installments of the series, the characters’ faith in an integral aspect of their daily lives, but the book is devoid of overt proselytizing or attempts to convert readers to a particular set of beliefs.
Also like the other books that make up the trilogy, Blue Skies Tomorrow is an engrossing and entertaining story about love, faith, empowerment, and journeying to peace with oneself in order to establish and maintain a successful relationship. The book brings the adventures of the three Novak brothers to a richly satisfying conclusion.