Good stories have the same ingredient: characters we care about on a journey fraught with challenges and adversity. Really good stories create real doubt about whether or not the character will succeed or even survive. We really don’t know until that last page is turned how it all ends. Who lives? Who dies? Will I get more of this story in a sequel? Will there be “loose ends”?
The first stories I fell in love with took place in a setting very different from those of Laura and Eric. Most of them took place in the days before the automobile. Characters named Jackson and Lee, Washington and Cornwallis, Wellington and Bonaparte filled the pages of the books I read. Whole civilizations lived and died by the success and failure of these men and their soldiers.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time when the safe money wasn’t on a rag-tag rebel army standing up to the most powerful empire the world had ever known. The victory of Wellington and Blucher outside a little Belgian backwater in 1815 was not a foregone conclusion. And, how could anyone know in 1940 that Hitler’s and Hirohito’s armies would be defeated by August of ’45?
People watched and waited for word from places like Gettysburg, Bastogne and Saratoga. They wanted to know if Richmond or Paris would be spared military occupation or razed in street-by-street fighting like Stalingrad or Berlin. Would The Reign of Terror ever end? Who would be left?
See, to us, they’re amazing stories that have been handed down from generation to generation, stories that we take for granted as being the way things have always been. But to the people who lived them, it was their life. Would their loved ones come home? Would the bombers return? Would the enemy army reach their city?
It was, as war always is, a very terrible drama. A drama that these people lived. They paid a heavy price for paving the way for us. Someday, I encourage you to put down that exciting novel you’re reading and pick up a book of our history. Read the full and tragic story of a man named Benedict Arnold, or, how the relationship between Ben Franklin and his son, William changed forever during The American Revolution.
And, remember, regardless of what we think of the politics putting them there, we have men and women spending months and years away from their families, facing great danger and adversity for us. I am always grateful to those brave souls writing our history in their blood.