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Time After Time

Review

Time After Time

There is nothing more alluring than opening a book and being immediately absorbed in the pages. Lisa Grunwald has written the primo historical novel/love story of the year. Prepare to kick back and put everything on hold.

When Nora Lansing, in her out-of-fashion, smudged and slightly rumpled clothes, suddenly appears at dawn in front of Joe Reynolds, a railroad employee in Grand Central Terminal on his way to work, their future is sealed by fate. After a brief conversation regarding directions, Joe rushes off to a meeting on how Grand Central, the busiest railway station in America, will deal with increased traffic and crowds, as Nora sets off to exchange her French notes for American dollars.

The year is 1937, and it is December 5th, which has become known as the Manhattan Solstice, or Manhattanhenge. Much like the English Stonehenge, twice a year the sun rises in a celestial phenomenon precisely along the grid of Manhattan’s streets to shine through the east windows of Grand Central, then at sundown sets in the west windows. Nora has appeared as the sun rose and will vanish with the setting sun.

"Lisa Grunwald has written the primo historical novel/love story of the year. Prepare to kick back and put everything on hold."

And so begins the magical saga of Nora and Joe, star-crossed lovers who fall in love as Europe becomes embroiled in the opening days of World War II. As the threat of war looms, Grunwald weaves a moving tale of the bravery and sacrifice of the GIs who pass through the iconic grandeur of Grand Central to and from their way overseas. Joe’s job with the railroad is deemed essential to keep the trains running, so to his great disappointment, he must stay behind. His brother, a policeman, lies to the draft board about having a wife and two children; once war is declared, he embarks with the millions of boys and men who are prepared to lay down their lives for their country. Joe steps up to look after his sister-in-law and small nephews as families all over the nation adjust their lives to confront the crisis.

Meanwhile, Lisa appears and then disappears from Joe’s life, flickering out like a candle flame until they discover how and why she returns to Grand Central on the solstice. After learning that if she leaves the Terminal, she will vanish and perhaps permanently die, Nora finds a way to remain there, honing her artistic skills and volunteering for the Red Cross. This mesmerizing story plays out for decades until a heartrending decision must be made.

TIME AFTER TIME is much more than a romantic tale of two young people in love. It is a story of the deep love Americans felt for their country and how the women and children they left behind were prepared to sacrifice everything for freedom and democracy against the threat of fascism, the Nazis and communism. Grand Central serves as the ornate setting, with its Red Cross aid stations and volunteers working to keep up morale and feed exhausted warriors as they arrive from abroad or prepare for debarkation.

I have passed through Grand Central on several occasions in years past, and Grunwald evokes in breathtaking prose descriptions of the people, sounds, smells, restaurants, shops and hotels. The dazzling ceiling, stained glass windows and magnificent gold clock are the centerpieces of the story. If perhaps changes have occurred since my last visit three decades ago, I can easily summon up these memories.

Those who may feel that women’s roles in the book are ignored should recall the times --- late ’30s and ’40s --- and be aware that females served valiantly in other parts of the nation during the war, as well as later in the service. This story, though, plays out solely in Grand Central Terminal, which, along with the two lovers, is the star of the show. It is the heartbeat, the engine, of the action. I can see it now on a Broadway marquee: TIME AFTER TIME. I’d fly cross country to New York City for it and take the subway from the airport to Grand Central. Been there, done that, in fact. Hmmm, what a brilliant theatrical concept.

Reviewed by Roz Shea on June 14, 2019

Time After Time
by Lisa Grunwald

  • Publication Date: June 11, 2019
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 0812993438
  • ISBN-13: 9780812993431