Life-changing letters are the common link among all three major female characters. Typically the messages are ones the sender would not have expressed in person. What is it about writing that allows for more freedom and/or courage? If you were to compose a single farewell letter, to whom would it be addressed and what would you say? Is there a reason you are waiting to tell the person?
In each of Liz's letters to Morgan, she reveals hints of the secret she is keeping from him. Can you pinpoint the clues? (Click here for answers) Do you think these are merely slips, or are they reflective of Liz's intention to come clean?
HINTS OF LIZ'S IDENTITY IN HER LETTERS TO MORGAN
"Such was the case when I heard Glenn Miller and Lena Horne on the radio today." (page 87)
At the USO dancfe, two songs played a significant role during Liz and Morgan's encounter:
The first was "Stormy Weather," a tune reminiscent of both of their mothers. Lena Horne recorded it several times throughout her career, most notably for the 1943 film Stormy Weather.
The second noteworthy song during the scene was "At Last," to which the couple shared their interrupted yet magical slow dance. The ballad was originally recorded and popularized by Glenn Miller and his orchestra.
"Your words painted such a vivid picture of evenings spent amidst the quiet cornfields and blazing sunsets." (page 143)
In a letter, Morgan mentioned sitting on a tractor in the fields while admiring the sunset. However, only in person did he explain to Liz that he used to specifically harvest corn.
"I had not thought of those verses in years. It seems a lifetime since I studied literature of the like with my father." (page 144)
These lines along with the Byron poem are indeed telling hints, as during their conversation at the USO, Liz told Morgan she planned to be a literature professor, thereby following in her father's footsteps.
"I smile now recalling occasions on which I, too, had made my father proud—the day I received a gaudy blue ribbon for my first short story contest; and, of course, the evening I debuted in a school play as a singing pine tree. (An off-key one, at that." (page 144)
Here she mentions her penchant and aptitude for writing, again linking her expressed career path. She also admits to having been an unskilled singer—in contrast to Betty, who we know has a decent singing ability, based on her USO job as well as Liz's thoughts.
"Aside from wishing those clouds away for you, I can offer only a relevant poem, as Swinburne's eloquence so greatly surpasses my own." (page 225)
Liz's knowledge of classical literature is confirmed once more with her citation. The brief analysis that follows in the letter further relates back to her mention of plans to become an English professor.
"Though a newborn never did arrive down our chimney, years later I met my dearest friend, Julia." (page 227)
During the start of their meeting, Liz had introduced Julia to Charlie right in front of Morgan. However, by the time he reads this letter, we can safely assume he has forgotten Julia's name.
"Though I had the pleasure of meeting Charlie only briefly, the goodness of his character shone brightly through. His ability to make people smile, as well as his infectious zest for life, I will forever hold in my memory." (page 226)
Here, Liz makes it clear she had spent enough time with Charlie to make such conclusions about his personality. He had certainly displayed both traits in Liz's presence at the dance.
"The scarf, knitted by a cherished elderly friend, I pass along to you now..." (page 268)
Although she didn't provide specifics, during their chat Liz did tell Morgan that her work involved caring for elderly folks, describing it as: "a job I love for some reason." Of course, as you know, Viola is among those folks and most definitely a "cherished elderly friend."
Of all the characters, which one surprised you the most with their secret? Is Morgan hypocritical regarding his firm stance on honesty? By withholding truths, did Frank and Julia benefit anyone other than themselves? Is opting for a burden of silence a sacrificial or selfish choice? Is it better to be honest about a wrongdoing, even if no one would ever find out?
By most standards of the era, Liz's view of societal roles for women is unconventional. When offered an internship, Julia struggles with this very issue. How are Liz's and Julia's dilemmas over a career and motherhood relevant to women today?
After Morgan's harrowing recon patrol, he wonders: "Were prayers of murderers, when fighting on the 'right side' of the war, ever heard—let alone answered?" And later, he watches a chaplain praying over a soldier. Do you believe any type of murder is wrong, or does it depend on the circumstance? How would you feel as the chaplain? Did your attitude toward the "Kraut" Morgan confronted change upon the discovery of the man's photograph?
Through the course of the story, Liz and Betty realize they were unknowingly following the paths of their mothers. How do the results of these revelations contrast? Why do you think people often copy actions or behavior they disliked growing up?
While the contexts differ greatly, "cover me" is both one of the first and last phrases Charlie and Morgan exchange in the story. Discuss the dynamics of their relationship as the duty of "covering" the other gradually shifts. In what ways do Liz and Julia reverse roles? Which character ultimately grows the most?
Discuss Leslie and Betty's relationship. How do you feel about his actions? Under what circumstances, if any, would they have been justified? What do you think his letter might have said? Would you have reacted differently if you were Betty?
In search of support, Liz turns to her beloved friend Viola. Were you surprised by the message in the elderly woman's anecdote? Did you agree with her? If you were Liz, would you have felt betrayed or grateful for Viola's advice?
As often found in time-travel stories, characters in McMorris's novel wind up causing an event as a direct result of trying to prevent it. Do you think major events in our lives are predestined and unavoidable, no matter which action we take? Is the coin Charlie finds in the abandoned village random or an element of fate? If Dalton hadn't canceled on Liz at the USO dance, where would her life have taken her?
Among the central themes of the novel is loss of innocence. A prime example is the little girl who drops her doll on the slushy road from the Belgian village. What is the irony of her devastation? Why doesn't anyone help her? Discuss the possible symbolism of the road, the girl, the travelers, and the soldiers in that scene (page 181).
What is the significance of Morgan's two bedside neighbors, "Jabber" and the airman, in the French hospital? Which one of them would most likely feel like a hero upon returning home? Did the book change how you viewed veterans, both male and female, of World War II? If so, in what ways?
From the origin of "Jungle Juice" to the use of snowsuits for camouflaging German soldiers, the story is sprinkled with historical tidbits from both the home front and frontlines. What is the most interesting information you learned?
Describe how you envision the lives of each major character five years after the story ends.