I am very pleased to be featuring my review of Leora’s Letters, written by Joy Neal Kidney. I have been following Joy’s family history blog,Joy Neal Kidney – Family Family and local stories and history, favorite books, for a few years now, and I was thrilled to see the history of her mother’s family during World War II compiled in book form. I immediately purchased it, read it, and reviewed it! Joy was gracious enough to provide me with some personal photographs with captions to accompany my review.
Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family in World War II opens with a description of a family ritual: going to the local cemetery on Memorial Day to place flowers on the graves of three brothers killed in World War II. Many families across the United States engage in this ritual to honor the sacrifices of their loved ones, gaining some small measure of comfort in being with them at their final resting places–but in the case of the Wilson family, two of the three graves are empty.
Joy Neal Kidney, the author of Leora’s Letters, is the niece of those three brothers; Leora was her grandmother. Joy took on what was truly a labor of love to find out what exactly happened to her uncles and how these events impacted the family at home on the Iowa farm. The stories of her two uncles who survived the war are also included, as well as the perspectives of their two sisters, their father, and, of course, their mother Leora. This was a family.
Joy tells the story of her family’s experience in World War II with a skillful integration of carefully curated primary sources (the letters Leora saved and family photographs), historical research to provide clarity and context for the events, and creative nonfiction to bring the family members to life.