This is a powerful story of love, war and the lingering affects of tragedy that is as intimate as it is universal. How many of us live with ghosts we cannot name? Edie’s ghost had a name, Tom, but that made him no less mysterious. Or omnipresent. The story certainly struck home with me, as it will with any reader who comes, later in life, to understand (as much as a person can ever understand another) her parents and their relationship and how what came before affects the rest of their lives, including how they raise and relate to their children.
The book begins:
Whenever I have thought about World War II, which, until recently was not often, I never put my parents into the picture. Since they never talked about the war, I suppose I thought it was a brief chapter in their lives and one that was not of particular interest. Whenever I asked my father to tell me about the war, he would always say, “There isn’t much to tell.”
It wasn’t until after they died and I read the letters they left behind that their participation in the war and its indelible effect on them, and on my generation, became clear to me.
Edie’s empathy for her parents (her mother, a Marine, her father, a soldier)—and the lost pilot Tom—grows as she unwraps their story, layer by layer. This is family drama (why is mother so sad?), mystery (what really happened to Tom?), and truth about the resonance of loss through a lifetime and through generations.
Her first book, The Place He Made, about the life and early death of her husband Paul, affected me deeply. It’s one of those books that I recommend to special people—if I think they can handle it. It is both beautiful and emotionally wrenching. I didn’t think she could top that effort, but with this one . . . maybe so. With What There Was Not To Tell, Edie Clark establishes herself as one of the premiere writers of memoir working today.
And she lives just down the road in Dublin, New Hampshire.