REVIEW: An Unexpected Coddiwomple by Loretto Thompson
By the time Loretto discovered the cache of WWII letters, her father had been dead almost 50 years. She’d accepted she would never know him. All that changed when she decided to type his 500+ letters for her siblings. With each letter she heard her father’s voice. With each place she visited and each person she met, the 50 years without him melted away and the enduring gap that had opened between them when she was 4-years-old gradually began to close.
An Unexpected Coddiwomple takes you on a journey through a captivating collection of WWII letters abundant with humor, intrigue, and romance, across the U.S., to the U.K., and back again. Learn from “Big Sundin” himself, her father’s pilot, what actually happened in 1945 when he ditched Heavy Date in the North Sea, saving the lives of the entire crew. Had Big Sundin not executed a “perfect ditching,” she and her 6 siblings would not have been born. Through her father’s own words, Loretto uncovers truths about her parentage that were buried with him in 1965, revealing decades of mysteries that culminate with an invitation to Buckingham Palace. It’s a story of family, duty, faith, and a life transformed. It’s a story of love.
AUTHOR’S NOTE – “These letters were written in the 1940s, at the height of a worldwide conflict, and at a time where individuals were frequently referenced by their nationality. In most instances, these references are not, nor are they meant to be, derogatory in nature, with the possible exception of the enemy. Even so, I found myself a bit uncomfortable with these references as they are no longer used. His letters were written almost 80 years ago. We’ve come a long way since then. I mention this so you are not surprised when you come upon them. I hope when you encounter them you bear this in mind and attribute them to a sign of the times—”
Dear Ms. Thompson,
I wanted to be sure that the full title of the book “An Unexpected Coddiwomple: The Story of a Father’s Sudden Death, a Box of World War II Letters, and a Daughter’s Life Transformed” was part of the review because there’s more to this book than just the letters – important though they are. What an absolute treasure of information and insight for anyone interested in the time, the place and how things really were back then.
So many things had to happen in order that this book existed. Your father had to promise to send daily letters home, those letters had to be saved by his brother and mother then ultimately end up with your parents and be saved by your mother for decades after the tragic death of your father at such a young age. But the stars aligned, things went just so and now we can all read about your father’s life in the Army Air Corps during WWII.
This is “the real dope” as your father phrased it. Life learning the Army ropes, waiting for the Army to decide what to do with Frances George (bows!) then training him to do it. The highs, the lows, the funny and the boring moments of life in “this man’s army” are there but magically your father is there, too. I was tickled as you discovered the little things about him that you never thought you’d know and began to see bits of him in you. I enjoyed the modern day parts during which you pieced together where he’d been, who were some of the people mentioned in the letters, and went to the places he’d been stationed. Meeting with the captain whose skillful piloting saved all their lives must have been such a thrill as well as traveling to Suffolk in the UK and getting your Goldfish patch.
Your father’s personality, wit, insight and intelligence come through in his (well, almost) daily letters home. The letter from one of Frank’s pals to your grandmother must have touched her deeply. She did, indeed, raise a fine young man, someone you happily now know, too. B