HarperCollins Publishers | April 2016 | 352 pgs
Set in the 1940s in Door County, Wisconsin, this debut novel by Lucy Sanna tells a poignant story about war, love, loyalty as well as how every action could result in unimaginable consequences.
Charlotte and Thomas Christiansen own a cherry orchard but business is bad after the war. Many able-bodied men have left for war, including their son, Ben, and there are no workers to pick the cherries. Migrant workers have taken a better jobs at the shipyards and the like and it seems like the Christiansen family will have to go through another year without a harvest until an idea struck Charlotte. Together with other farmers', they decided to petition the Army for the German POWs to work the farms; that is after through the approval by the local authorities. After countless disagreement, they agreed to the proposal but the POWs are to stay in the farms' migrant worker camp and to bring the guards in with the workers. They would give the Army the workers' pay but they could delay payment until the harvest. While the Christiansens isn't comfortable with the thought that they are keeping some POWs as their son Ben is off in Italy fighting off the enemies, they decided this is the best option for the orchard's sake and that the POWs would be sent off once the harvest is done.
Their younger daughter, Kate, helps to raise rabbits so that she could save enough money for college. Like her father, Kate is intellectual but due to poverty she has to forgo her dreams and stay in the farm. Meanwhile, Thomas befriends a prisoner named Karl and decides that he would be Kate's maths tutor considering Karl was a maths teacher before the war. Charlotte doesn't trust Karl, but Thomas believes he is a good man. Kate finds him all right and as long as she could pursue her dreams she's fine with anything.
However, things often happen unexpectedly and before one knows it, Charlotte and Kate find themselves caught up in the web of secrets and deceits respectively. And when Ben finally returns home, battled and wounded, the secrets they've all been keeping would be exposed and would shatter their lives thereafter.
The Cherry Harvest is an unforgettable tale about war and unimaginable consequences. Although it's a war story this is actually very much about Charlotte and Kate and their life they are going after. Thomas and Ben are more like the background, giving backbone to the story through snippets of their thoughts and actions. While the story was dramatic and intense at times, what I liked about it was it offers readers some thoughts about the consequences through the acts we have done intentionally (or not). The ravage of war and the scars it inflicted on the soldiers are always hard to read and serve as reminders of countless lives lost and homes destroyed. Though the ending has fairly dictated the fate of each character I thought there is a possible sequel for Kate should the author continues with this story.
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