Dan Wakefield’s “Under the Apple Tree: A World War II Home Front Novel” is a tremendous story about the American home front during the battle.
The story, which takes place in a small Midwestern town, starts on the day the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. Artie, an 11-year old protagonist, idolizes his older brother, Roy, but is envious that Roy is joining the Marines to fight the Japanese.
Artie decides to help the war effort on the home front as much as he can by buying war bond stamps, collecting metals, finding Japanese spies and watching over Roy’s girlfriend. He does this while engaging in the usual boyhood activities such as school and Boy Scouts. By the end of the book, Artie learns what it means to be a man.
Wakefield displays his skill as a literary craftsman in this novel. Every word pushes Artie one step further toward maturity. The dialogue sparkles as he alternates comic and poignant sections; each character seems real. While reading the book I was magically transported back to that interesting time in American history. I hated to put the book down.
Told from the perspective of a preteen/teen in the 1940s, the book touches on issues such as post-traumatic stress syndrome of returning soldiers, the national hysteria about possible German and Japanese spies and societal judgments of people. Wakefield specifically didn’t change these issues to meet current sensibilities.
Although the book takes place in a small rural town in Illinois, it is loosely based on Wakefield’s experiences in Indianapolis during the time period. Republished by Hawthorne Publishing in honor of the 70th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, the book is lovely. Dawn Marion’s gorgeous drawings compliment the book, and a set of discussion questions at the end adds to the book’s value.
Wakefield will sign copies of the book from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 3, at the Benton House, 312 S. Downey Ave. Bookmamas, 9 Johnson Ave., is selling the book.