Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner
As WWII rages just over the English channel, Emmy longs to follow her dream to become a wedding gown designer, surrounded by beautiful gowns all day long. However, her reality is that she lives with her single mother, never having known her father, in an East End London apartment, struggling with teenage angst against her mother every day, and helping care for her younger half sister. As the war progresses, Emmy and her sister are evacuated, with all other London children, to the countryside, and find themselves in the home of a kind older woman and her developmentally delayed sister. There they find a sense of stability that they have never known, and although they miss their mother and their London life, they begin to bloom. One day, however, Emmy receives a letter from the owner of the bridal shop where she began working just before the evacuation. The letter tells her that a meeting with a well-respected wedding gown designer has been arranged, and if it goes well, Emmy will become his apprentice, but the meeting is in London. Emmy tries to sneak away in the night, but her sister awakens, and Emmy ends up bringing her along. Unknown to the girls, that night will be the first night of the London blitz- a concentrated and horrific attack of Nazi airpower, dropping hundreds of bombs on the city. During the attack, Emmy and her sister are separated. Emmy spends the next few months searching for her in the city, and eventually, heartbroken, she returns to her foster home in the countryside. The book follows Emmy's journey over the next few years as she becomes a wife and a mother, living in America, and eventually returning to England when she inherits the house in the country. She never stopped hoping to find her sister, but it is not until many years later that they are able to reconnect. This is a beautiful book about familial love, teenage angst, mistakes both of decision and circumstance that have profound effects, recovery from loss, and reconnection. A must-read for WWII fiction fans.