Every New Year’s Eve since 1946, Nate Meyer has ventured alone to Times Square to listen for the ghostly church bells he and his long-lost wartime lover vowed to hear together. This year, however, his grandson Blaine is pushing Nate through the Manhattan streets, revealing his secrets to his silent, stroke-stricken grandfather.
When Blaine introduces his boyfriend to his beloved grandfather, he has no idea that Nate holds a similar secret. As they endure the chilly death of the old year, Nate is drawn back in memory to a much earlier time . . . and to Walter.
Long before, in a peace carefully crafted in the heart of wartime tumult, Nate and Walter forged a loving home in the midst of violence and chaos. But nothing in war is permanent, and now all Nate has is memories of a man his family never knew existed. And a hope that he’ll finally hear the church bells that will unite everybody—including the lovers who hid the best and most sacred parts of their hearts.
Seriously. Seriously. This is fucking ridiculous. STOP CRYING, ROSA! I hope Amy Lane is happy because she gave me a sinus headache.
So. Much. Snot.
Sometimes a book hits me so hard in the feels I can't judge it for quality--I can't tell you if the writing is excellent, or if the characters are believable or if the plot is too plotty. That wasn't quite my reaction here. Yeah, I spent 30% of the novel almost unable to read due to puffy eyes, but I was still disappointed Nate’s grandson Blaine and his boyfriend Tony didn’t play a larger role. (I thought for sure their happy-happy relationship would balance Nate’s wartime love for Walter—NOPE.) I still noticed two major plot points that went from lots-o’-lovely-angst to oh-come-on-that’s-just-fucking-melodramatic. (No, I’m not going to tell you about them—spoilers, people!) And I still wasn’t quite sure why Nate and Walter were so epically in love. Other than the fact that they’re two “poofs” hiding out together in a house in the woods in Nazi-Occupied France and it's convenient to the plot. Their time together covers a large part of the novel, but it still felt sudden to me when Nate declared his undying love. There just wasn’t enough there for me to think, “Yes! Yes! This is a love that will last a lifetime!”
But you know what, people? You know what? I don't give a fuck. I guess I don't need to be fully convinced of Nate and Walter's epic love to adore every snot-ridden moment I spent crying over them.
It's Nate who started off my blubbering. At the beginning of the novel he's an old man, trapped in his body due to a stroke, unable to speak or move at all and his memories are more real than the people around him. Just imagining that, the loneliness and the frustration, is enough to start the waterworks. But by the end of the novel it occurred to me that that situation wasn't new to Nate. His stroke is a physical manifestation of his emotional and mental life. Nate had spent his life trapped in his head, unable or unwilling to share what he loved most with those around him. *cue wailing*
And Walter...OMG Walter. He just killed me. He's an 18-year old farm boy who joined up so he could eat on a regular basis. He's seen more death than I'd see if I lived 3 lifetimes. He has no one and knows that he is no one. Just another grunt, a foot solider, cannon fodder. He's one of the millions of boys you and I will never know existed because their stories aren't dramatic enough to make it into a Ken Burns documentary or a Steven Spielberg movie. Boys like Walter exist only in the minds of those who fought with them, those that loved and lost them. *cue caterwauling*
At this point you may be saying, hey, all your talk of crying and snot is fascinating, Rosa, but is there an HEA? Well...maybe? Kind of? It depends on your definition. It doesn't quite match mine but at the same time I wasn't completely wrecked by the ending. Read the blurb, make a few realistic guesses as to what may happen to two forbidden lovers or any two people during a war and you'll probably come to the right conclusion. But the experience is worth any upset you may feel. Is this such a wonderful novel that I'll remember it forever? No, probably not. But whenever I do think about it I'll remember Walter and other boys like him and I'll remember Nate at the end of his life...and, you know, that makes The Bells of Time Square a pretty great novel.
**Copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.**
Buy this book:
Thanks for reading my review!