More than a decade ago, what began as a family project turned into a popular regional cookbook when McMorris compiled her grandmother's recipes and published them as Grandma Jeans Rainy Day Recipes. The project benefited the Hood Canal Food Bank.
In doing research for the biographical portion of the cookbook , McMorris learned for the first time of her grandparents courtship by correspondence during World War II.
A glimpse of some of those love letters inspired her next literary endeavor.
Letters from Home is a work of fiction. McMorris has taken the idea of wartime correspondence and given it a twist what if true love bloomed across the miles, even though it was based on a lie?
The plot revolves around three Chicago roommates during World War II: Liz the aspiring scholar, Julia the aspiring fashion designer, and Betty the USO singer. Liz and Julia are both already engaged, while unattached Betty is a real bombshell.
The war and studies and simple chance interrupt the plans of all three young women in unexpected ways.
When Liz goes to a USO dance to cheer on Bettys performance, she shares a brief dance with Morgan, a serviceman due to ship out the next day. This brief encounter flusters her she seemed to share some uncanny connection with this thoughtful young man.
But when she later sees Betty dancing with the same fellow and notes his apparent interest in her roommate, she quickly bows out, deferring to propriety and her better judgment. After all, she is engaged to somebody else.
It comes as a rude shock to Liz several days later when Betty, unaware that Liz had even danced with Morgan, implores her to ghostwrite a letter to him. Its clear that Betty has no real feelings for Morgan, but is doing this just to be nice, now that the poor fellow is stationed overseas. Because Betty is a really terrible writer, roommate Julia joins in to pester Liz about this really, what can it hurt?
And so begins a correspondence between Betty and Morgan that, although based on a lie, eventually elicits their deepest fears and dreams.
Letters from Home takes place over a year and a half. It follows the romantic liaisons of these young women as well as the difficult choices they must make that will shape the rest of their lives.
Although the back stories of the characters tend to be a bit cursory, McMorris does a good job of showing how the women gain in humility and courage and compassion over the course of the novel.
Another sustaining pleasure of the book is the loving attention the author gives to period detail, although occasionally she veers full-force into purple-prosed verbosity.
Still, in our increasingly jaded age, it is not a bad thing to review the notions of honor, sacrifice, delayed gratification, and simple kindness that were the underpinnings of an earlier era.
The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org