The War Brides of 24th Street is a novel based on actual events. It is an historical romance, a chronicle of war, and a family saga in one. Narrated by Silby Dunn, the youngest of three sisters whose parents were driven north in search of employment following the Great Depression, the story unfolds in Baltimore, Maryland, and covers a five year period during World War II. The Dunn family resides on 24th Street, a blue-collar, row-house neighborhood where Silby's mother, Claudia Dunn, discovers a bevy of young women pining for their overseas husbands and boyfriends, ripe to fall under the spell of her mothering and relentless hospitality. The three who most often gather around the Dunn's dining room table are Hazel, a freckle-faced blond from Kansas who moves to the big city in search of a job as a stenographer and ends up marrying Stanley Polanski, the cab driver who takes her from the bus station to a room at the YWCA. Two weeks after showing her where to deposit her four year savings reserve, Stanley talks her into marriage. They set up housekeeping on 24th Street and he immediately ships out to Hawaii on a destroyer, leaving my mother to wonder about the wisdom of Hazel marrying a man she knows nothing about. Lila is a lively, blue eyed red-head who has been madly in love with Garret Cummings since the eighth grade. She is the most progressive of the young ladies, with a gift for predicting the future. Despite her metaphysical expertise, Garret refuses to consider marriage until he returns - if he returns - from Guadalcanal. Brynn is the most affluent of the 24th Street women. Pampered by her parents, she disappoints them by marrying an Army Lieutenant she meets at Military Police Headquarters, across the street from her parents' house. Appearing at first sight to be a weak, obedient husband, Brynn fails to appreciate his heroic potential, even after he distinguishes himself in the Battle of the Bulge. Brynn breaks the gender barrier of the '40s by becoming a cryptologist, eventually deciphering communication related to the Manhattan Project. The interaction of the Dunn family provides a stirring backdrop upon which the affairs of war and romance unfold. The oldest of the Dunn sisters, Marjorie, escapes the upheaval of her father's on-again, off-again drinking by losing herself in the magic of Louisa Mae Alcott's writing, while middle sister, Betsy, escapes into the world of patterns and fashion. They share a great devotion and concern for their oldest brother Danny, whose ship is torpedoed off the coast of Africa. Based on actual events, he and eight wounded sailors are stranded on a wooden raft with no food or water for twenty-three days. Only one will survive the ordeal. Providing humor, are the quaint boarders who make it possible for the Dunns to pay the rent. Providing nostalgia, are the commonplace streets of Baltimore in the late thirties and forties.
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