I have never really thought about how life must have been those 13 days 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I have read about it, seen documentaries about it and seen movies about the days. But I have never really thought about how it must have been like in America during those days, with little knowledge about what was going on in the White House and in Soviet and still having to go on with your life as usual.
For the Avery family is it time for the Homecoming and the daughter in the family has a date with a boy from Cuba whose family is still there. They try to get on with their lives, the mother in the family is about to break down from stress and inner tumult and the father is doing everything he can to keep his family together. And, then a relative comes to their town. Someone they all thought had died and with that arrival a long-buried secret revels.
I think what makes this story so compelling to read is that the story about the Avery family would be an OK read in any context, it's a good story, but it gets even better with the Cuban Missile Crisis in the background because as they struggle with everyday problems during the 60s they also have to face that this could be the start of WW3 and any moment a missile could end their lives. I mean this could really be the last ever Homecoming.
I liked this book because it got me to picture an American family during a difficult historical time. It got me to feel with them and it gave me a greater understanding of the how lives must have been back then. It gave me so much reading this book. The Cold War may be over, but war never ends…
Thanks to Bantam Dell and NetGalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!
Deleted scene from the book:
In this scene, on Saturday, October 27, 1962, the darkest day and night of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 17-year-old Charlotte Avery drives to Saint Charles Catholic Church in search of Emilio, her date for the Homecoming Dance.
The hard rain had everyone scurrying, umbrellas lowered, oblivious to the cars attempting to park. She made two passes through the lot before finding an open spot then dashed into the sanctuary where the noise level was an unrelenting roar. She’d never been in a Catholic Church before. The gold leaf, the slanted tables full of gleaming candles, the spicy smoke of incense surprised her. She’d been stopped short by an odd sense of trespass. Forgive us our trespasses. The pews were jam-packed with people, most of them on their knees praying or weeping. Long lines snaked along the walls on both sides, shuffling toward the small wooden doors where, apparently, priests were hearing confessions.
Initially, she stood at the back beside a raised stone basin, until a woman carrying an infant came running in, dripping wet, screaming for a priest. “My baby needs christening now! Now, I tell you! I won’t let her wind up in limbo!” the mother wailed, then sank with hoarse, hiccupping sobs into a folding chair.
Attempting to walk down the left side aisle past the line, searching the faces for someone, anyone she knew, she was stopped by an angry looking couple and told, “No cuts!”
That left the center aisle. Shyly, uncomfortably, she made her way there. Halfway down on the end, she spotted Vivian, the lady who worked at Parisian Dry Cleaners, head bowed and covered with a black lace shawl.
“Vivian, excuse me,” she whispered, lightly touching her shoulder. It had startled the woman so she nearly dropped the beaded necklace she held in her hands. “I’m looking for Father Tom. Do you know him?”
“Father Thomas?” Vivian repeated, pronouncing it Toe-MOSS. She pointed a long finger toward the front, the door at the left. “Try the Social Hall across the courtyard.”
Outside, she was forced to turn sideways to make her way through the tight knots of two, three, or four people huddling beneath their umbrellas in tense conversations. Winding through the crowd, she heard snatches about “Senator Keating…,” “…papal intercession?” “…complete disarmament!” and, from the last group of all women, “his parents in Ft. Lauderdale,” and “Poor Jackie and the kids.”
The Social Hall was a lot like the crowded cafeteria at school. In fact, she wondered if it was the cafeteria for the kids who attended Bishop Moore School. Off to the side, in the doorway to the kitchen, she spotted a big burly priest, caught his Irish accent, and moved to stand in front of him. “Father Tom?” she asked, suddenly breathless. “I’m Charlotte Avery, looking for Emilio.”
“Hello, young lady. Emilio? Why he’s…”
“Here, right here.”
She turned and Emilio was there, smiling. And right then, in front of him, the priest, and everybody, she burst into tears. When Emilio stepped forward to comfort her, she crumpled against his chest. Without thinking, she wrapped her arms around his waist and sobbed into his shirt. Eventually, he led her to a quiet corner where, because there were no chairs, they sat on the floor—she with her back against the wall while he sat in front her, shielding her from the rest of the room.
“The thing is…,” she told him, blowing her nose on a wad of napkins someone had handed him, blotting tears with the sleeve of her sweatshirt. “…in the beginning, I never wanted any of this homecoming stuff. Really! But then…,” she sniffed, “you asked me to the dance, and we had so much fun at the parade, and now…well, now, it’s supposed to be our big night and this, all this…” She waved her hand at the room, the church, the whole wide world. “…has happened. Why? And why now? It’s just all so…inconvenient!”
Emilio chuckled at that. “Oh, mija,” he said warmly, “life can be inconvenient, especially when it involves a crazy person like Fidel…”
“Or my mother, at the moment.”
“Oh, I promise you, your mother’s no match for Fidel in the loco department. Honestly, our best hope is that Khrushchev realizes how crazy Fidel is before he gives him the codes to anything. But, in the meantime, Charlotte, life can be fun as well. That’s why I’m here, no? To make sure we have the most fun night ever, yes?”
“Yes and yes,” she told him. “Thank you.”
Later, walking out the door, someone pressed a flyer into her hand—EIGHT SIMPLE AIR RAID RULES. She dashed to the truck, tossed it onto the seat, and headed home.
Turning on the radio, she heard the “special breaking news” of a Pentagon announcement. Turning onto her street, she made up her mind. If this was it, if they were all bound for a white-flash-mushroom-cloud death, she wouldn’t cower in their shelter, or drop into the cringing shame of duck-and-cover, chin on her knees, arms over her head. At school, at her height, she’d only ever half fit under the desk anyhow. No! She would walk out, with dignity, to meet her fate. And yet… and yet, her heart cried as she pulled the truck into the carport. I don’t want to die! Not now, when I’m just starting to live!