Title: Stars Over Clear Lake
Author: Loretta Ellsworth
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: May 2, 2017
What's the Story?:
From Goodreads.com: "For the first time in
decades, Lorraine Kindred has returned to the ballroom where she was
swept away by the big bands during the 1940s - and by a star-crossed
romance. As she takes in the magnificent energy and brassy sounds of her
youth, the past comes to life, along with the fateful decision all
those years ago that forced her to choose between personal conviction
and social expectations, between the two men who had captured her heart.
It had been a time of great music and love, but also of war and
sacrifice, and now, trying to make peace with her memories, Lorraine
must find the courage to face buried secrets. In the process, she will
rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience."
My Two Cents:
"Stars Over Clear Lake" is the story of Lorraine, a young woman living in Iowa where the best thing happening in her small town is the music and dancing at the Surf Ballroom. The Surf Ballroom happens to be where Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper played their last concert before "the day the music died." It also burns down in a mysterious fire. Her town also is home to a prison camp for German POWs. Her father hires several of them to work their family farm after Lorraine's brother goes to fight the war in Europe. Lorraine's affections are torn between a boy from town and a boy from the prison camp. Lorraine is also dealing with a mother who prefers her son and is devastated that he has gone off to war. So much happens in this book!
This book has a lot of different story lines in it and is told in two times: one in the 1940s, one in the almost present day as Lorraine is looking back at her life. This is an ambitious book that seeks to tackle a lot of different things and because time is split between so many elements, the book bounces around a lot. The "day the music died" connection is only mentioned briefly, which confuses where the focus is supposed to be. Is it the characters? Is it the places: the Surf Ballroom or the prison camp? Is it the love story? There is technically a love triangle but you can pretty much see from the beginning of the book where Lorraine's affection truly lies so it doesn't induce the drama that I believe was intended.
That being said, I did like a lot of the pieces of plot in the book. The love story between Lorraine and her German soldier was incredibly romantic. This is a true forbidden love story. Lorraine's mother really does not want her daughter to be seen with this German. Lorraine and Jens bond over their love of music and it's music that seems to bring them in and out of each other's lives. The very end of the book was one that made me swoon a bit.
The historical detail of the book was interesting. Our history often brushes over the fact that we had POWs kept here in the states during World War II. I found the uncovering of this hidden history very interesting. The POWs are allowed to work in places like farms and even the Surf Ballroom, which was also eye-opening to me.
Overall, I do wish that this book had been streamlined some. It could have been a very strong single love story with historical elements but everything else that was included muddied the waters somewhat. The ending did pull the book together more so bonus points for that. This was still an enjoyable read for me!