The Andersens of Eden

Written by Ethel Barker
Review by Arleigh Ordoyne

Ben Andersen of Eden, Iowa is a young teenager when Pearl Harbor is bombed in 1941. He watches in dismay as his three older brothers each take their turn doing their duty for Uncle Sam. Seeing the effects on his family, and knowing his time will come, he experiences mixed feelings about his future. While he longs to take on the role of head provider on the farm, he feels pressured by society (and the three shining examples of his brothers) to join the war.

With numerous characters, including grandparents, parents, and five siblings, this book covers life in a small Midwestern town during a time when Americans were just recovering from the Great Depression, and were now losing family members to a faraway and devastating war. Both the European and Pacific fronts are covered, as well as a Prisoner of War camp housing Germans in Algona, Iowa.

The author writes with minute details of 1940s American society and fleshes out her characters with precision. Although the choice of Ben as the point-of-view character initially seems questionable—because one brother is particularly interesting, and his sister is intelligent and witty—it is a good call for a full-circle tale. The relatable history and WWII timelines add depth to the Andersens’ personal strife, and the story flows well, although may be a bit lengthy for younger readers.