With World War II as a backdrop, Brian Payton relays a tale of two people who are married to each other but separated at a time when a little-known battle was being fought on North American shores in the Aleutian Islands in 1943.
Canadian journalist John Easley survives a parachute jump after the U.S. warplane he travels on is shot down. Only he and a young Texan soldier survive. John impersonates his Canadian pilot brother who was shot down in Europe, and no one is aware that John is there or who John is. He had been caught venturing onto the Aleutians on an earlier expedition for the National Geographic and was told, along with a fellow journalist, that he would be charged with espionage if he tried to go there again.
John's young American wife, Helen, has angrily told him that if he goes back to Alaska, he should never return home, and so he leaves. Helen works in a Seattle shop saving enough money for a small home to raise the children she dreams of having. Caring for her father after a stroke, Helen wonders what could have happened to her husband. Might he have taken her parting words seriously? She reaches out to his journalist friend and then decides to figure out a way to track her husband in the desolate islands off the coast of Alaska.
Strong in her Roman Catholic faith, Helen finds her way to the Aleutians by way of the USO. With only amateur stage experience, she meets up with a friend making her way into show business who pulls some strings on her behalf. She requests the undesirable Alaskan tour, and, along with a director and four other girls, sings on makeshift stages in airplane hangars before audiences of lonely American soldiers.
At every stop, Helen inquires after her husband, seeking news of the military stationed in the Aleutian Islands.
John, meanwhile, struggles to survive with the young Texan soldier. With only the clothes on their backs, the salvaged parachute silks and a lighter, they scavenge an abandoned Aleut village for coal, pick mussels from the freezing coastal waters and use small rocks to kill birds to eat.
Survival becomes difficult, especially after John finds himself a loner on the island -- except for the Japanese soldiers who have invaded the village in preparation for the land battle ahead.
Mr. Payton crafts a beautiful, heart-inspiring and heart-wrenching tale of love, forgiveness, loneliness, the strength of the human spirit, and the power of faith in God and family. These are not the stories we heard from our parents, but they are believable nonetheless.
Lorinda Hayes: Klmnrhayes@yahoo.com.