Book review:5-B Poppy Lane by Debbie Macomber

5-B Poppy Lane is the second story in A Merry Little Christmas by Debbie Macomber.

The story begins with Ruth Shelton, a University of Washington graduate student with anti-war views, rushing home to collect her mail in hopes that there is something from Sergeant Paul Gordon, USMC. Despite her anti-war views, Ruth still feels that supporting the troops is important and decides to join a local project to mail Christmas cards to a nameless soldier for the holidays. Sergeant Gordon is the recipient of Ruth’s card and decides to write her back. They continue to write each other for months, getting to know each other through letters. However, she hasn’t heard from him in several days, which is unusual for him. Thankfully, there is a letter from him when she gets home and she discovers that he is coming home to the Seattle area for a 2-week leave before continuing onto Camp Pendleton for training … and he wants to meet her face to face!

During the 2-week leave, Ruth and Paul get to know each other and quickly fall in love. However, Ruth’s anti-war beliefs create some hesitation in a future military life with Paul. She doesn’t understand how Paul can choose a career with ties to war and politics. How can she get past her political opinions in order to be happy with Paul?

Enter Ruth’s grandma, Helen. Helen is an educated widow who speaks French and German and lives in Cedar Cove. When Ruth brings Paul to Helen’s for lunch, she hears a story that changes how she sees her Grandma forever. Helen was a student in France when Germany invaded and was in love with Jean-Claude Brulotte. Some citizens of France were embarrassed by the unsuccessful French attempt to fend off the German forces and were unwilling to accept their occupation. Helen, back then answering to her middle name Marie, and Jean-Claude became a part of a small rebellious group that harassed the occupying German. Their small group grew a reputation and other rebellious groups formed, creating the French Resistance. Helen’s story of survival during the French Resistance allowed Ruth and Paul to see the courage and feistiness that Helen had back then. They also find out the heartbreaking story of how her first husband, Jean-Claude, died and the survivor’s guilt that Helen has to carry around with her for the remainder of her life, but all is not lost with Jean-Claude’s death. Eventually, the American forces liberate the concentration camp that she is held in for years, and Helen meets her future second husband, Sam. He brings her back from the brink of despair and becomes a second chance at happiness.

Can Ruth learn a lesson from Helen’s experience in France and with Jean-Claude? Will Ruth figure it out before Paul’s leave is over? Of course it all works out, it’s a romance. But the story is in the details.

5B Poppy Lane is an exquisite trip into WWII France. Debbie Macomber created a history lesson out of a love story, and even threw in some morality! After getting through the first story in A Merry Little Christmas, I was hesitant to start this one. I almost just put the book away and moved on, but I wanted to finish it, so I hesitantly started 5B Poppy Lane. I am so glad that I did! This story thankfully has nothing to do with 1225 ChristmasTree Lane. There are far less characters to remember and each character in 5B Poppy Lane is developed enough to stand on their own in the story. While I was reading this story, I could feel the frustration between Paul and Ruth, the fear and determination from Helen aka Marie and Jean-Claude, the heartbreak and heaviness of Jean-Claude’s death, the hatred toward the Vichy and German troops, and love at the end of the story.

If you can get through the first story in A Merry Little Christmas, I highly recommend reading 5B Poppy Lane. Even if you do not like romance stories, this one I promise you will enjoy.

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