About the Book
In the aftermath of World War II, the members of the Sutton family are reeling from the death of their “golden boy,” Eddie. Over the next twenty-five years, they all struggle with loss, grief, and mourning. Daughter Harriet and son Nat attempt to fill the void Eddie left behind: Harriet becomes a chemist despite an inhospitable culture for career women in the 1940s and ’50s, hoping to move into the family business in New Jersey, while Nat aims to be a jazz musician. Both fight with their autocratic father, George, over their professional ambitions as they come of age. Their mother, Eleanor, who has PTSD as a result of driving an ambulance during the Great War, wrestles with guilt over never telling Eddie about the horrors of war before he enlisted. As the members of the family attempt to rebuild their lives, they pay high prices, including divorce and alcoholism―but in the end, they all make peace with their losses, each in his or her own way.
Praise for Don’t Put the Boats Away
“Don’t Put the Boats Away is chock-full of well-researched historical details about political events, medical advancements, and even food trends of the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s, and it also offers important commentary on professional opportunities for women during these decades. The author creates believable characters with complex interior lives. Overall, it’s a touching tale that examines the ways in which grief, regret, and unmet expectations can reverberate through generations.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Reading Don’t Put the Boats Away is like being enveloped in a family, a real family bound by love and loss, music and science. It’s a testament to the danger of secrets and the hope we place in future generations. I enjoyed it thoroughly.” Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg, Eden and The Nine
“Don’t Put the Boats Away is a richly detailed family saga of the Suttons’ post-WWII lives—and a wonderful sequel to Ames Sheldon’s first novel Eleanor’s Wars. Ames’s knack for period authenticity is paired with a keen portrayal of the inner lives of major characters that transcend common narratives of ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s America. Complex relationships, dedication to music, science, and family loyalty, and the haunting legacy of war even on privileged families make this a compelling read.” Barbara Stark-Nemon, Even in Darkness, Hard Cider
“Don’t Put the Boats Away is a timeless portrait of life’s loves and losses… the novel has raw and dark undertones… Sheldon explores the furtive topics of mental illness and social conflicts with modern clarity… Her characters are empathetically real.” Minnesota Monthly
This was such an interesting read! There are so many books out there that focus on war itself, but Don’t Put the Boats Away takes a different direction altogether and focuses on the aftermath of war. The aftermath of WWII to be precise. This was a time of great change in the U.S. as the people adapted to the life altering after effects of WWII. Sheldon hones in on one family dealing with the loss of a very important member of the family: Eddie. Eddie was the “golden boy” of the family, a son, and a brother.
This book really takes a cold hard look at how different people deal with loss. Some seem to almost thrive following the loss of a loved one, refusing to take life for granted. Some find that they can no longer seek solace in those they used to. Some grasp and hold onto a new purpose in life. And some turn to drowning their sorrows in alcohol. Yet through all of this we tend to persevere, which is what the Sutton family desperately tries to do.
This story takes place over many years, showing just how much losing Eddie shaped all of their lives. I really loved reading about Nat and Harriet, they both had such vivacious dreams. Harriet, who I like calling Harry even though she thinks she has outgrown the nickname, gets it in her mind that she wants to become a scientist. Even though women were meant to just become mothers during this time, Harry decided she was going to do what interests her and no one could stand in her way. I also loved the little insight on how she struggles with dyslexia and through hard work has been able to continue her education and find a love in science after realizing how well her brain processes the information. Nat on the other hand just wants to be a musician, even though his father want’s anything but that for his son. He has a passion and strives for his father to see how much he works for it.
Overall this is a story about family. Throughout our lives the one constant is going to be having a family and it is amazing to see how it shapes and morphs throughout the years.
About the Author
I have been writing stories since I was nine years old. I worked as a reporter for two small town newspapers, as a publicist for an auto salvage yard and an aluminum recycling business, and as the author for two academic reference books, one of which helped to launch the field of women’s history. Then I ventured into creative nonfiction, writing grant proposals for the Sierra Club, the Minnesota Historical Society, and the Minneapolis Public Library.
Born and raised in Minneapolis, I have lived in Philadelphia, Boston, and San Francisco.
*I received a copy in exchange for an honest review*