By Lucy Sanna
William Morrow (June 2, 2015)
Reviewed by Stephanie Kamerman
Lucy Sanna’s debut novel, The Cherry Harvest, takes you to Door County, Wisconsin, during the Second Great War, where one woman’s unseen madness weaves a web of secrets, deception, love, and murder.
Charlotte Christensen keeps a vigil while her beloved son, Ben, is away at war. While she waits for the war to end and her son to return home, she frets over where her family’s next meal will come from. While Charlotte steals and bribes for dinner, her husband Thomas diligently prepares their farm’s cherry field for the coming harvest. Both place their hope in the field, and the monetary relief it will bring them. Without Ben though, or any extra hands to help with the harvest, there may be no harvest. No harvest would bring destitution.
During a town meeting, Charlotte persuades the town’s elders to bring in German POWs from an Army camp near by to help the farming community, including the Christensen farm. The reluctant townsmen agree and Charlotte is relived for a short while, as it is now certain there will be harvest. The unthinkable happens, and Charlotte begins to develop feelings for one of the POWs, Karl, assigned to work on the Christensen Farm. Despite a loving marriage, Charlotte’s feelings for Karl develop further and after he rescues Charlotte one afternoon from the hands of another POW, a fuse of passion is lit igniting a strand of lies.
Besides helping with the cherry harvest, Karl is employed on the side by Thomas to help his and Charlotte’s daughter, Kate, with school. Kate, a lovely young woman preparing to go away to college in the fall, meets a wealthy, handsome man. Kate’s eyes are opened to the world outside of her farm life and she begins to anticipate her life away from home. But Kate’s eyes are opened even further once she discovers the secrets her mother is keeping, and demands Kate to keep them as well.
An injured Ben returns home from war, and isn’t pleased when he discovers a POW has been helping around his home. His anger is intensified with flashbacks to the war, and those he loves begin to fear him and resent him; they want the old Ben back. Despite Ben’s manic episodes, he is able to see the attachment between his mother and Karl. And what happens during the cherry harvest will leave you breathless.
On the surface, The Cherry Harvest is a story of love in war, but in truth it’s a tale of war in love. Lucy Sanna writes in third person, providing the reader deep insights in the minds and lives of those in the story. Engaging, thrilling, but yet romantic, The Cherry Harvest makes one contemplate madness, when it begins, and what can happen if it is brushed aside.
STEPHANIE KAMERMAN is a contributing editor to LitChat. Read her full bio here.