REVIEW: The Foxhole Victory Tour by Amy Lynn Green
Based on true World War II stories of life in the USO variety shows, worlds collide when performers from around the United States come together to tour North Africa.
Vibrant and scrappy Maggie McCleod tried not to get fired from her wartime orchestra, but her sharp tongue landed her in trouble, so an overseas adventure with the USO’s camp show promises a chance at a fresh start. Wealthy and elegant Catherine Duquette signs with the USO to leave behind her restrictive life of privilege and to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of the handsome pilot whose letters mysteriously stopped arriving.
The two women are joined by an eclectic group of performers–a scheming blues singer, a veteran tap dancer, and a brooding magician–but the harmony among their troupe is short-lived when their tour manager announces he will soon recommend one of them for a coveted job in the Hollywood spotlight. Each of the five members has a reason to want the contract, and they’ll do whatever is necessary to claim it. As their troupe travels closer to the dangerous battlefront in Tunisia, personal crises and wartime dangers only intensify, putting not only their careers but also their lives on the line.
Dear Ms. Green,
What a lovely cover for this book and double yay that one of the female performers actually has a green dress that she wears. I’ve grumbled about how so many books about WWII currently being published are mainly about libraries (and I love libraries) so when I read the blurb for “The Foxhole Victory Tour” I immediately wanted to get my hands on it. Just so readers here will know, there is a (very) slight romance thread in it but the story is mainly about friendships, found family, and self discovery.
During WWII, two young women are living their dreams of performing their music in public but are also still facing misogynistic attitudes, silly wardrobe requirements, and personal issues. Just when Maggie has quit this job, she’s approached with an offer to audition for a smaller (not the big show with Bob Hope) USO troupe. Surprisingly, another woman also seeks out this chance and Maggie finds herself speaking up for Catherine. Both are approved to join the three other acts of the show but an announcement that one of the five performers might be recommended to audition for what could be a once-in-a-lifetime break threatens to sow discord among them. Will they be up to the rigors of the North African tour and what will they discover about themselves along the way?
The book does a great job showing how “the show must go on” under trying and dangerous circumstances. There are also wonderful details about the cities in which the characters found themselves. The religious aspects of the story are handled with a light hand and mainly there to help highlight what Maggie and Catherine discover about themselves. Kudos for including a song important to a Jewish member of the performers.
I liked that each performer had genuine reasons for not only wanting but needing the “big break.” Catherine has another reason why she wants to join the smaller tour, too. She’s desperate to escape from her managing parents but also hoping to find the man with whom she’s falling in love. Maggie grew up with a father devoted to his Salvation Army work who takes a dim view of her playing in a band. She wants to prove that she can stick to a job as well as play something on her trumpet other than hymns. Older singer Judith knows this might be her last chance to make it big; as a 4F, younger magician Gabriel can’t fight but needs to prove that he’s doing something for the war effort; while older vaudeville performer Howie lived through the Great War, knows how soldiers need a boost, and wants to keep doing so in honor of the wife he loved.
The story mainly focuses on Maggie and Catherine. Maggie finds that doing these shows for the troops fills a need she didn’t know she had. She realizes that even trumpet playing and telling jokes can help the war effort by boosting morale. Catherine has been pampered and sheltered all her life. Overhearing others doubt that she’s got the grit to stick out the touring conditions stiffens her resolve to prove to herself and them that she does as well as finally break free from her parents’ control. When push comes to shove, she reaches deep and makes her own decisions rather than letting others do that.
The little bits of details that round out the other performers are naturally introduced into the story when needed rather than info-dumped early on. Every person has their moments of being thoughtless, unlikeable or just grouchy (the touring conditions really are difficult) but slowly they begin to meld into friends who care for each other and act for each other including something lovely that four of them do for Catherine. As one says, finding people with whom you want to perform with is a gift. On this journey they also discover something greater than themselves. None of them can actually join the fighting but they can and will do this – try and cheer up those who going into harm’s way including the ones doing work behind the lines such as the WAACs (who, because they were women, had to initially prove their worth) and the refugees and political prisoners in labor camps. I really enjoyed this different WWII setting and watching the characters bond and become like family. B+