Title: The Bells of Times Square
Author: Amy Lane
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 236 Pages
Rating: 5 Stars
Blurb: 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.
Review: “You cannot fit a lifetime into one meeting of lips, even if you try. – Amy Lane”
I want to quickly share part of my review process… It might be something quirky that I just do, or maybe lots of people do it, I dunno… When I sit down to write my review, I open the blurb and read it, partly so that I don’t mistakenly say something that sounds too much like the blurb if I’m summarizing, but also just to get a feel for how the author saw the book, and wanted to convey it to his or her readers. Well, I just re-read the blurb for this book and got shivers, y’all. Full body shivers. THAT is what this book will do to you.
Nathan Selig Meyer is an officer in the United States Air Force, a recon photographer stationed in Europe during World War II. On a mission one night, Nate asks his pilot to maneuver so that he can take some photos, not of their intended target but of something that looks ‘off’ to him, and they are engaged in a dogfight. The plane gets hit, and they go down in Moselle, a small village in France. The pilot is killed, but Nate survives and is pulled from the wreckage by Corporal Walter Philips.
Walter, who lost his unit in Africa and was captured but escaped while being transported, has been surviving for months on his own in an abandoned summer home. He takes Nate to the cottage and begins nursing him back to health. Over the course of the next several weeks, while Nate is recovering and getting his strength back, he and Walter get to know each other. They form a bond and begin a love affair that lasts more than a lifetime.
The way this story is structured is perfection. It begins with Nathan’s grandson, Blaine, taking Nate for his annual trip to Times Square to listen for the church bells – bells that he and Walter had promised to listen for together – takes us back in Nate’s mind to 1943, and then seamlessly brings us back to present day Times Square. The passage that takes us to 1943 is beautiful:
The lights around them, from the streets, from the cars, were swallowed up, and the darkness washed over his vision like a closed shutter, and when the shutter opened again, he was back, back in 1943…
I love the imagery of the camera shutter, which is used throughout the book as Nate takes pictures in his mind of things he wants to keep with him for always.
Nate’s brain framed the shot, clicked the shutter; the picture would be there in his mind forever.
Nate has had a stroke, and can no longer make the outing to Times Square on his own, but Blaine has an ulterior motive; he wants to introduce his grandfather to his boyfriend, Tony. Meeting Tony, and seeing him and Blaine together, takes Nate back to the war, and to what it was like as he was just learning about himself and what being gay meant – to him, his family, and his faith – and, most importantly, to his deep love for Walter, and what it was like both to find him and to lose him.
The writing in this book is stunning. At times both sweet and funny, and also heart-wrenching and emotional, there isn’t a feeling you won’t experience while reading it. Amy Lane is a phenomenal storyteller. She perfectly conveys what the war experience is like, and what being a part of it means for both Nate and Walter. Nate’s Jewish faith is a huge part of the story, obviously, and his reflections on what was happening during the war, and what it would mean to him to help the resistance, in even a small way, were very powerful.
The end of the book is absolutely breathtaking. Blaine desperately wants his grandpa’s understanding and approval about Tony, and Nate desperately wants to give it to him but is unable to speak or really move because of the stroke. I LOVED the way this gets resolved. And, I don’t want to give anything away as far as what happens to Walter…but it is certain that though they don’t get to realize their dreams of a life together, he still turns out to be the love of Nate’s life.
The Bells of Times Square is a beautiful, poignant, incredibly special book. Amy Lane has written a gorgeous love letter here that no one should miss out on.
You can buy The Bells of Times Square here: