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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Riveting Novel About War and Prejudice

The second review that I wrote for The Bookplex deals with a  slice of  Florida history and provocative themes.  It also allowed me to discover an amazing woman from history through research.


This is a well-written novel dealing with the residents of a small Florida town before, during and after World War I.  It’s a moving portrayal of the period with enough detail to convey authenticity.  It focuses on important themes such as prejudice, the realities of war and the cultural beliefs surrounding it.  The characters are well-drawn.  Even the villain has dimension since we learn something of his background.  David Cooper, the central character, is well-intentioned and heroic. He isn’t perfect by any means. He makes mistakes due to misperceptions, but he is faithful to his principles and values. I was impressed when he taught his wife, Sara, to drive a truck. There can’t have been too many American women driving trucks in 1917. In fact, I discovered in an online search that the first American woman to receive a commercial license to drive a truck was Lillie Elizabeth McGee Drennan in 1929. David's willingness to instruct Sara, so that she wouldn’t be isolated on their farm while he was “Over There” in Europe, speaks well for their relationship. I enjoyed Sara’s gumption.  Sara’s father, David and Sara’s African-American neighbors and David’s German immigrant employer are all notable and sympathetic characters.  The plot was dramatic, moving and suspenseful—particularly toward the end.  I would recommend Fire Angels as a book club selection because it provides a number of substantial topics for discussion.

Here's some more information about my research subject:

The story of Lillie Elizabeth McGee Drennan (1897-1974) is a fascinating one.  She was not only the first licensed female truck driver in the United States, she was also the first American woman to own and run a trucking firm.  Lillie had originally been a telephone operator, but she lost most of her hearing due to scarlet fever. This caused her to face discrimination.  When she applied for a truck license, the Railroad Commission, which regulated trucking at the time, was reluctant to give her one because they believed that her deafness would make her an unsafe driver.  Lillie demanded the license based on her previous driving record.  She operated her trucking firm for 24 years.  During that period, she received safety awards from the Railroad Commission and later from the Texas Motor Transportation Association.

My source for these facts about Ms. Drennan is her profile on The Texas State Historical Association Website 

Please refer to that article for a more complete biography.


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