A War of Her Own

Written by Sylvia Dickey Smith
Review by Laura Staley

Bea Meade is a woman of her times in Orange, Texas, 1943 and has never worked outside the home. Her parents are dead, and she has a young son to support, when her husband decides to leave her for his pregnant mistress. She also has a habit that puzzles even herself and that she knows will drive away any potential suitors: she has cried herself to sleep for as long as she can remember. Bea has few options, none of them good.

But in 1943, the United States is fighting World War II and, for the first time, women are encouraged to take jobs in factories, making the guns, planes, and ships that arm the Allied forces. Bea takes a job in one of Orange’s shipyards, soon becoming a skilled riveter. With her newfound confidence and the support of her family and friends, she begins to realize that the future may offer bright possibilities. And then, as the mystery of her past begins to unfold, her husband decides he wants her back after all. A War of Her Own has strong themes of female empowerment, and of the importance of accepting human differences.

In the first three quarters of the novel, the author draws a realistic picture of World War II Texas. In the last pages, the tone seems to slide from reportage to folklore, from newspaper story to the kind of family stories told around the campfire. Although jarring, the change is not enough to spoil the book; history fans will enjoy the vivid portrayal of Texas shaking off the last vestiges of the Great Depression. Overall, recommended with only a very few reservations.