Twomey, Cathleen. Beachmont Letters. Boyds Mills Press, 2003. ISBN 978-1590780503 224 pp. $
Before Operation Dear Abby, kindly English teachers invited their students to write to soldiers serving in WWII, never dreaming of the heartache they might cause when their female students fell for the lonely, frightened and traumatized men they befriended through airmail. Sensitive and lovely Eleanor, recuperating physically and emotionally from a restaurant fire that left her face and upper body permanently scarred and took her father from the family, finds it is easy to relate to a stranger on paper, and Robert, the soldier she is assigned, falls for her humor and honesty–and the picture she sends him that is two years old.
In between shifts at the local drugstore, Eleanor lives for her letters from Robert, telling him the things she can’t say to her mother or seven-year-old sister or nosy neighbor or co-workers, about how hard it is to be her, and how much she missed her physician father, without revealing the details of her disfigurement. In fact, the reader only gets those details as Eleanor herself comes to terms with her accident, a deft storytelling trick by the author.
Twomey sensitively captures this historical portrait of a girl on the brink of womanhood in a challenging time; local details give this story set in Revere special appeal for Massachusetts readers. A tearjerker coming of age story with a solid plot and strong character.