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Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite
It’s 1945 and the war in Europe and Japan has just ended. Harriet and Nat are two siblings who have completely different dreams about what they want to achieve. Harriet wants to take her father’s place at the chemical plant he runs, so she goes to Wisconsin to study chemistry. Since her brother Eddie passed away in the final days of the war, Harriet hopes that her dad would now look to her to keep his company running when he retires. Nat is the youngest child and a passionate lover of music. When he gets kicked out of Andover for failing grades, his parents send him to work at a cousin's mill in Minnesota rather than let him pursue his dream of being a musician. It is grueling work but after a while, Nat finds a way to play the saxophone he loves. Meanwhile, after Harriet graduates, she is finally hired by her father to help create a fungicide that will preserve food better than what is currently available. It’s the opposite of what she had done at the University of Wisconsin, but she soon finds herself liking it. Their mother, on the other hand, had gone back to school and wants to learn more about psychology. She battles with alcohol, PTSD from her working during WWII, and a bitter resentment she has towards her husband, who she blames along with herself for convincing Eddie to join the army which resulted in his death.
I found Don’t Put The Boats Away by Ames Sheldon a very interesting read. I began the book thinking it was just about Harriet but then realized it was also about her brother Nat. The main characters are well-thought-out and relatable. It also was very realistic when it came to Harriet's and Nat's storylines. So many women gave up their careers in the late 40s and 50s when they got married and had children, in Harriet’s case. While her career is put on the back burner, her younger brother is having all kinds of doors opening up for him. I find his particular story very fascinating and sad at the same time. Here we have a talented young man who fought for his freedom from his father to play music, only to become entrapped by a woman he thought he loved but realized too late what her intentions were. It’s a situation many people know only too well and can empathize with. The wheel of fortune in life is always turning and life is constantly changing with good and bad events. As we read, we can see one sibling's fortunes rise while the other takes a dive and so forth. This made it more appealing to me because it’s not the typical happy ending or the characters having happy lives throughout the book. The story plays out as if we are reading about the lives of a very real pair of siblings. Don’t Put The Boats Away by Ames Sheldon is a unique book that many historical fiction readers would enjoy.