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Based on authentic letters from the era, My Darling Dorothy is a timeless love story that transcends both hard times and the brutal impact of war. The tumult of the Great Depression and World War II provides the background for a novel about three young people; Tommie, Jack and Dorothy and their challenges, struggles, defeats, and triumphs.
Tommie struggles to survive the Bataan Death March in the fall of 1941, clinging to his dream of a gratifying future with Dorothy as his bride. On the frontlines of the European Theatre, Jack experiences the horrors of endless battle. Dorothy,caught between the two, works to maintain her dream of a life beyond small-town Nebraska. The hopes and hardships they share are reflected in the letters that they exchange. Are they remnants of lost dreams, or the foundation for a joyful future?
Jo Ann Virden is the author of A Passion For Life: Ruth Marie Colville. Her first love is writing short stories. My Darling Dorothy, which started as a short story, evolved into Jo Ann’s first novel. She is passionate about promoting childhood literacy and spends many hours volunteering in reading programs throughout the Denver Metro area.
She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Bill, and she enjoys outdoor photography, long walks in the Rocky Mountains and spending time with her grandson, Cyrus.
(This excerpt comes near the end of My Darling Dorothy. Dorothy is struggling to understand all the changes she is seeing in her husband upon his return from the war. The scene is the beginning of a much-needed conversation about the reasons surrounding all those changes.)
Dorothy jerked the covers off Jack. “Get up, honey.” “What the hell?” He reached for her hand. “Hey, you, come here.” “Oh, no ya don’t. I need a little rest. Three days, honey, that’s a lot of lovin’ after three long, dry years.” “I know, so come here, come on, just once, and then I’ll do anything you ask.” “You said that yesterday, and where did it get us? On the couch, on the stairs. I swear I never thought I would ever—” “Oh, come on, Peaches. You love it just as much as I do, don’t ya?” “That’s why I’m standing over here, fully dressed and ready to go.” She walked out the bedroom door. “Come on, honey. I’ll make you a nice real breakfast.” “How about some more of that fried chicken? Let’s make it just like we did a couple nights ago.” “Stop!” she yelled from the stairs. “Now, get up, get dressed, and come on. I have a surprise for you.” Jack sat up and began to dress. For the first time he noticed the maps on the wall. He traced the route across the map from Beaver City to Denver, up to Cheyenne and Laramie, and on through Idaho. His finger stopped at the end of the route. “Washington. Damn.” The clod in his belly returned for the first time in three days. He took the stairs one at a time, trying to compose his thoughts. He entered the kitchen and walked past Dorothy. “Do you want your eggs sunny-side up again? Hey, what’s wrong? Oh come on, honey. We can play some more when we get home. Don’t pout like that.” “We need to talk.” “I know we do. Me first. I have something to show you, but it’s in Oxford, and it’s just killing me to not tell you all about it. I want it to be a surprise, and I know you’ll just love it. Not another word. Now, it’s your turn.” “I saw your maps.” “Oh, so what do you think? I mean, nothing is written in stone. They’re just ideas. We don’t have to go through Denver. I just thought it would be fun. Who knows where we’ll end up, right? We’ll just close our eyes and throw a dart at the map, and wherever it lands, that’s where we’ll start. Honey, what’s wrong? What’s going on?” “I told you in a letter, remember? I wanna stay right here and farm, not in Washington or any other place, but right here.” Dorothy put up her hand. “Stop. Here, eat your breakfast, and then we’ll drive to Oxford, and you’ll see. Everything’ll be just fine.” JACK SPREAD HIS arms out in front of him. “I feel like a damned fool with this scarf wrapped around my eyes. Where are you?” He stopped in midstride. Dorothy took his hand. “I’m right here. We’re almost there. Just ten more steps. I’ll guide you. Now, stand right here and take off the scarf.” Jack jerked the scarf off and threw it to the ground. A 1938 forty-foot Airstream trailer met his gaze. Its silver color reflected the sun so that he had to shade his eyes to see. “What do you think, honey? Isn’t it gorgeous? It’s just perfect. Come on. I’ll show you the inside.” Dorothy began climbing the stairs of the trailer. “No! Stop right there! Dottie, I ain’t changin’ my mind! You didn’t do something stupid, did you? You haven’t bought this damned thing, have you?” She walked through the door of the trailer. “Dottie! Come down from there, right now!” He approached it and began to climb its steps. He peered into the trailer and saw Dorothy with her back to him, her hands covering her face, her body shaking with each sob. “Damned, honey, don’t cry.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “Don’t touch me! You yelled at me!” “Stop, honey. I’m sorry, but you aren’t listening to me. This is where we belong. It’s too risky to go off running around all over the country. This whole cockamamie idea is crazy.” “You’re calling my ideas, my dreams for us, crazy? I thought you wanted fun and adventure.” “Honey, please listen to me.” “No, you listen, Jack Smith, and you listen good. I have loved you since the moment I set eyes on you when I was in high school. You left me high and dry and moved to Washington without so much as a good-bye or ‘see ya later.’ I thought you were gone forever, and I made myself believe I could love somebody else, but all the while I knew it wasn’t true. Then you came back into my life and swept me off my feet all over again. You even married me, and then you left again. I wrote you every day, and I worried myself sick day and night when you didn’t write. I never knew if you were dead or with some French whore.” Jack’s eyes widened. “I never—” “I’m not finished!” Dorothy yelled, pacing up and down the trailer. “Now you come home, and all of a sudden you’ve lost your nerve. You used to be such a daredevil. The very thing that drove you away from me attracted me to you all the more. What happened to Smitty? Where did he go?” Jack walked toward the door. “He went to war.”
From the author – Before any desire to write the story came the desire to read the letters. I was particularly curious about the letters from the young man we knew nothing about. My mother told me he had died during the war and that he was “just a friend.” The letters suggested otherwise. My curiosity was piqued. I was deeply moved by his letters, not because they held any sort of deep meaning or even well-written prose, but because they were so full of hopes and dreams. (Spoiler Alert) Knowing that he was going to die made reading his letters all the more poignant. Somewhere in the process of reading his letters, I made the decision to write his story, and a short story emerged. The short story became a novella. I was then motivated to read my father’s letters to my mother and to write his perspective of that time in his life. When I finished that short story, I became curious about my mother’s perspective during that time of her life, and I began writing her story. It was during the writing of her story that a light went on in my head. This is a novel! It didn’t occur to me initially because I considered myself a short story writer with no inclination or desire to write a novel, but there it was. And, so the journey began.
This is a spotlight, not an endorsement. I did not read the book and therefore cannot recommend or not recommend the book. When I looked on Amazon, the reviews were very good. In the state of Louisiana, we are no longer allowed to be Amazon affiliates, therefore the Amazon link is provided for your benefit only. My Life. One Story at a Time. does not collect any affiliate fees.