The Whistle Stop Canteen
Barb Warner Deane’s The Whistle Stop Canteen takes place in North Platte, Nebraska, where a real canteen served service members traveling by train during World War II. Margaret Parker has accepted her life as an unmarried librarian living with her drunken mother after her fiancé was killed in World War I. Her desire to help people leads Margaret to volunteer to work at a canteen in her hometown, providing food, reading material, support, and well wishes to the men and women who stop there on their way to and from deployment overseas for service in World War II. What Margaret doesn’t bargain for while volunteering is finding a new love, to which she eventually opens herself via letters from Tom Carter. Secrets are revealed, however, that threaten the relationship as Margaret navigates friendship, family, and the home front at war.
Ms. Deane tells Margaret’s story well, allowing the reader to get into her head and know her thoughts, feelings, and worries. She is a likeable, significantly unflawed character who, despite dealing with her mother and relationship uncertainty, seems to have things work out easily, as evidenced by the passages from later time periods in her life. It’s unclear whether these passages are intended to be decoys, because the story’s ending is still quite predictable. However, Margaret is easy to root for, and the emotion still comes clearly through the page to create tension and keep the story moving and engaging. The Whistle Stop Canteen is an easy, quick read that does an excellent job of weaving in the history of the North Platte, Nebraska, canteen while telling an interesting, enjoyable story.