reading with mamawolfe: A Life Apart by L. Y. Marlow

“Beatrice leaned into her daughters,  powerless to halt another round of tears. She thought about all that had happened, all that she had done, the years of deception and betrayal and hurt. And as her daughters held her, their contact comforting and familiar, she thought of them, and of Emma and Morris, all the lives that she had changed. So many lives. And she cried as she thought about Agnes.” ~ from A Life Apart


A Life Apart, a new novel by L.Y. Marlow, delves into the themes of race relations, love and family. A Life Apart is set first in World War II, focusing on a young sailor, Morris, and his wife Agnes. The novel is told from multiple points of view, each chapter switching narrators. The story begins in 1941 Hawaii, just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and concludes in 1970s Boston. During the 30-plus year time span, L. Y. Marlow weaves a complex story of Morris, his wife and daughter, and Beatrice, a woman he meets when he returns home after surviving the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Spanning nearly 50 years, A Life Apart subtly weaves the stories of Beatrice and Morris while breathing life into the often forgotten memories of both white and African-American soldiers in World War II.

I was immediately drawn to A Life Apart because of its historical time period. I love learning about history through reading, and when I realized that A Life Apart delves into the race relations of the time period I knew this book would be something unique. Interestingly, what I ended up enjoying most about the story was the character of Beatrice, the young African-American woman Morris meets after the returning to Boston in 1942. Beatrice was a well-developed character; through her I could feel the pain of not only living within the societal confines placed on women in the 1940s, but also could begin to glimpse a life I’ve never experienced – a life where segregation dictated nearly every aspect of life. I admired Beatrice’s strength as she grappled with the pull of her heart against the ties society imposed against her. I respected her strength of character, as well as her ability to stay true to herself. In the end of the book I was intrigued with her ability to go beyond herself and make amends, not because she had to, but because she felt it was the right thing to do.

I felt at times that the plot of A Life Apart took some huge leaps; relationships were built a bit too quickly, and especially in the beginning of the book I found myself questioning if this would really happen with the speed and expediency that the author created relationships. I wondered if it would have been so ‘easy’ to give into the pull of the heart, especially knowing how deeply Beatrice was rooted in propriety. Towards the end, however, I began to fall into the rhythm of the story, and found myself eager to uncover each new element of the plot. 

In the end, I would rate A Life Apart by L.Y. Marlow four out of five stars. For readers looking for an easy-to-read historical fiction novel about World War II and the aftermath with realistic characters, this novel will satisfy.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this honest review.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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She’s Only 17, But The Decision Is Hers

            “Last night I dreamt I was returning
            and my heart called out to you
            to please accept me as you’ll find me
            Me kealoha ku’u home o Kahalu’u.”

-from “Ku’u Home O Kahalu’u,” a popular contemporary Hawaiian song written by Jerry Santos 

Lily at 5, preparing for kindergarten
Lily at 5, preparing for kindergarten

She’s feeling a bit anxious now. The summer before senior year, and the glow is slowly fading. School is no longer in the rear view mirror, and as September days inch closer and closer, she knows she doesn’t have much longer.

She’s only 17, but it’s time to think of leaving home.

Watching the college application process from the passenger seat feels a little bit like those first few days of elementary school, not knowing if we made the right choices, or if she would make it through the day by herself. We always knew she was independent, not terribly shy, and was an eager learner. But something about dropping her off on those first few days left me twisted up in knots. I couldn’t wait for her to come home.

Kind of how I feel right now.

When it was time for kindergarten registration, we chose where she went to school. She had no idea that her entire day would be taught in Spanish, nor that any other school was different. It was just what we thought was best, so she went. Things went well. She learned, she made friends, she laughed, and at the end of the day, she was happy to be home.

Now that it’s time for college choices, it’s really up to her.

She’s only 17, but it’s her time to decide where she wants to go next.

I sense her anxiety. It’s palpable as we click around websites and look at campus after campus.  So much to take in, making the decision that much more complicated. Intense. Insurmountable.

She hasn’t really changed that much since kindergarten-she’s still independent, social, and eager to learn. But something about the thought of dropping her off at college takes my breath away. I want to scoop her into my arms, make the choice for her, make the fears go away. I want to know that no matter what, she can come home at the end of the day and it will be OK.

But I can’t – she’s really 17.

Seventeen years spent nurturing her every interest, protecting her, creating a home for her to sink into when she needs it – has it all led up to this? GPAs, test scores, extra-curriculars…I can’t help but cringe at the extraordinary complexity of the decision, and wonder if it has to be this way. Can’t she just plug it all into some sort of app, and the perfect place will spit out at her on her computer screen, guaranteed to be her happy place?

Lily at 17, preparing for college

So we’ll make a list, do our research, and hop in the car to tour schools clear up to the Canadian border. We’ll walk the campus, take notes, and soak in what it feels like. She’ll try to imagine herself there, alone, independent, social, and eager to learn. Things will go well.

She’s only 17, but the decision has to be hers.

I’ll try to imagine myself next year, alone, missing her, but proud that she made her choice. And I’ll be there, next year, back at home, dreaming of when she returns.

Because she’s only 17.

No decision is forever. She can always come home.

This post was inspired by the novel This Is Paradise by Kristiana Kahakauwila, a collection of short stories that shares a view of Hawaiians few tourists ever experience. Join From Left to Write on August 8 as we discuss This Is Paradise.  As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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