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The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman is about two sisters working in a WWII armory, each with a deep secret. The following book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my review first.
The story is about two estranged sisters that were raised in Brooklyn and are reunited at the Springfield Armory in the early days of WWII. While one sister lives in relative ease on the bucolic Armory campus as an officer’s wife, the other arrives as a war widow and takes a position in the Armory factories as a “soldier of production.” Resentment festers between the two, and secrets are shattered when a mysterious figure from the past reemerges in their lives.
Let’s get into the book club questions.
- Let’s first talk about why Ruth and Millie weren’t close. What role did their mother play in this? And then later in life, how did they fail to try to mend the distance between each other?
- Why do you think when it comes to siblings that each one seems to fit in a specific role in a bigger family dynamics? For instance, with this story, Ruth is the reliable but distance old sister while Millie is the outgoing and emotional younger sister. Do you believe this dynamic started to evolve at the story went on?
- The story jumps back and forth between the two time periods (’30s Brooklyn and ’40s Springfield). What did you think about this story choice?
- Which sibling do you think you are most similar with and why?
- Why do you think Millie couldn’t tell Ruth that Lenny didn’t join the army but actually left the family? How do you think Ruth would have reacted if she told her that – would she have been sympathetic or just judged her?
- What did you think about the setting of Springfield Armory? Did you know much about it prior to this read?
- Let’s discuss Lillian. We find out she comes from a tragic past. How did the that help shape how she interacted with the woman at the Armory, particularly when it came to Millie?
- Why do you think Millie and Arietta bonded?
- Ruth and Millie’s parents were not a fan of Lenny. And their mother believed if Millie joined Ruth and Arthur to Springfield, then she would get away from Lenny forever. Let’s talk about why Ruth didn’t want Millie to join her family. What was she afraid of?
- After their parents’ tragically pass away, we find out that Ruth manipulated Lenny, and to some extent Ruth, so the two would marry. Do you Ruth would have married Lenny without that intervention? What did that reveal about Ruth? Would you forgive her if you were Millie? Why or why not?
- There are hints of racism in the U.S. in this read—from Grace accusing Arietta of being a sympathizer with the Italian government to comments about the sisters’ jewish heritage. Let’s discuss this.
- Let’s talk about how the sisters’ relationship changed from the beginning of the book to the end. Do you think they will ever be close?
- What happens next to each of the characters?
Recommendations for your next read
When it comes to historical fiction set in WWII, one of the best ever written is The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. This one is also about two very different sisters, however, this one is set in France during WWII. An exceptional, heart-wrenching story, it’s the definition of must-read. Click here to buy the book on Amazon.
For a historical fiction novel that isn’t about war, check out The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis. The story takes readers into the glamorous lost art school within Grand Central Terminal, where two very different women, fifty years apart, strive to make their mark on a world set against them. Click here to buy the book on Amazon. Check out my book club questions here.The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner also features a complicated dynamic between two sisters. When a young widow’s reclusive life in a charming beach town is interrupted by a surprise visitor, she is forced to reckon with dark secrets about her family, her late husband and the past she tried to leave behind. Click here to buy the book Amazon. Don’t forget to see my book club questions here.