Wake Up and Write Writer's Retreat Workshop
My sister Mic and I loved those books, and we both still re-read them to this day. Yes, we read other things as well, but neither of us has ever outgrown our love for the Parrishes and the Jordans, with a dash of Candy Kane thrown in for good measure. She did write some other non-Army books, though none of them captured our hearts in the same way.
Why did we fall in love with those characters and the world they lived in? Maybe part of it was the mystique of the military. When we were growing up in the late 50's and throughout the 60's, we believed wholeheartedly in the goodness of the military. We didn't really understand the reality of war, except when a much loved character would die.
It wasn't always a safe world she created. At the same time, her characters took on their challenges with grace and enthusiasm for the most part. Janet Lambert wrote about veterans living with pain from their wounds, death, the effects of war on the losing country - she handled big subjects, and she made them personal and intimate in their impact on character and reader alike.
From sixteen-year-old Jennifer valiantly coping with the seven young Jordans while her father was off fighting WWII, to Tippy Parrish unceremoniously yanked out of her happy teenage life on Governor's Island and thrust into the grim reality of a defeated, bombed Germany post WWII, Lambert tells warm, tender stories against a background of a world that no longer exists in the same way.
Mic and I laughed at ourselves, because we needed a box of tissues nearby every time we read Don't Cry Little Girl. We talked about the Parrishes and the Jordons as if they were our own family. And we both delighted in A Song in Their Hearts, when Candy Kane and her husband Barton became friends with Tippy and Peter.
Which brings me full circle to my experience of visiting West Point with my nephew Quinn. His twin, Lane, is also in his final year of Army ROTC at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and now I begin to understand the gallantry of Marjorie Parrish and Jennifer Jordon and all of the people who had a loved one in harm's way in her books. Lane and Quinn will be second lieutenants by this time next year, stationed who knows where, and while I'm proud of them and their commitment to service, I am also well aware of the dangers they will face.
When I read Janet Lambert books now, they will have a resonance they never had before. It makes me wonder if, as a writer, I will write something that will resonate for someone I will never meet...
One footnote on the title of this post - Not About Heroes is the title of a play on the WWI poets, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. The play title was ironic, as is the post title. It is not about heroes, and yet it is. Owen's work, in particular, is heart-wrenching in its expression of the realities of war, and heartbreaking because he was one of the casualties of the war. I don't think of war itself as heroic; rather the willingness to put oneself in harm's way to protect others, many of whom you will never know - that is heroic. To carry on quietly the life at home while a loved one is away at war - that, too, is heroic. So this is not about heroes, and yet it is...