BOOK REVIEW: GIRLS ON THE LINE by Aimie K Runyan

Girls on the Line: A NovelGirls on the Line: A Novel by Aimie K. Runyan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We’ve all heard of the ‘hidden figures’ of America’s space program; the women ‘heroes’ without whose tireless and painstaking work the history of America’s space program would be quite different.

Did you know though that decades before, there was another group of ‘hidden figures’ in America’s history? A group of women whose ‘call to duty’ would not be ignored or set aside.

The brave women who served with the U.S. Army’s Signal Corp in battle-torn Europe during World War I.

In GIRLS ON THE LINE, Aimie K Runyan brings to life, in rich detail and engrossing narrative, the story of the ‘hidden figures’ in American history that predated those of America’s space program. GIRLS ON THE LINE, a beautifully atmospheric set piece, is the story of a group of humble telephone operators in peacetime who became true heroines of World War I. These remarkable women, who more than once put themselves ‘in harm’s way’, undisputedly changed the course of the war and in the process, saved countless lives.

Ruby Wagner is from a prominent Philadelphia family, engaged to be married to the son of another prominent Philadelphia family. Ruby has everything that she could ever want – the comforts of a well-to-do family and the privilege that goes with that – a future of ease and comfort – marriage, albeit an arranged one, to a kindhearted, good and decent man. 

Everything she could want.

Except true happiness.

And true love.

As much as Ruby loves her parents, and tries to live up to their expectations, she is also resolved to be ‘her own’ woman and make her own decisions about her life. Part of her ‘strike’ for independence is taking a job, despite her mother’s vehement objections as a telephone operator with Pennsylvania Bell. 

When America enters the war, Ruby spends her days working the switchboards, rolling bandages for the Red Cross, and attending social functions where her mother ‘grooms’ Ruby for entry in to Mainline society. And then one day, in a cruel and ironic twist of fate, Ruby’s family receives word that her older brother Francis has been killed on the muddy battlefields of Europe. When Ruby hears that the Army is looking for skilled telephone operators to join the war effort by enlisting in the U.S. Army’s Signal Corp and going to Europe, where their vastly superior skills will be put to the test both behind and at the forefront of the battle lines, she knows in her heart that this is how she will honor her brother, and the countless others who lost their lives. 

Not by rolling bandages back home and indulging in all the comforts of being thousands of miles away from the war.

All too soon, Ruby is serving overseas in a forward area, embroiled in intrigue – did someone say “spy in our midst?” – and, unexpectedly, romance.

I’m going to stop here. To say anymore would be venturing into ‘spoiler alert territory’.

Great historical fiction doesn’t just tell a story. It immerses the reader into a particular place and time in history, bringing to life characters and events so realistically that the reader feels they are actually ‘there’.

Aimie has done just that. Replete with the mores and manners of the period, the author weaves narrative and character effortlessly to create a tapestry rich in detail, mood and atmosphere. Her meticulous research lends such a degree authenticity one has to remind themselves that GIRLS ON THE LINE is a work of fiction. Personally, I am half-tempted to travel to the author’s home – that wouldn’t be ‘stalkerish’, would it? – for a peek at the time machine she must surely have hidden away in her garden shed. 

My sincere “Thank you” to NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and the author, Aimie K. Runyan, for a free electronic ARC of this novel.

View all my reviews

About VeronicaThePajamaThief

Bio: Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw Born in Lisboa, Portugal to parents of Portuguese/Russian descent, Veronica Marie and her wife, Christina Anne, call the Pacific Northwest home, where the couple are “still very much on honeymoon!” When not teaching and finishing her own studies for a Masters in Sociology, Veronica writes fiction, primarily noir - "I love dark!". Her long fascination with noir fiction prompted Veronica to try her own hand at writing fiction several years ago. She has been published in Pulp Metal Magazine, The Lost Children: A Charity Anthology, the horror anthology 100 Horrors, from Cruentus Libri Press, Nightfalls: an End of the World anthology, Drunk On The Moon 2: A Roman Dalton anthology and Gloves Off: Near To the Knuckle's debut anthology. Veronica has also appeared in the inaugural issue of Literary Orphans magazine and her horror/urban fantasy short story SOUL TAKER was recently chosen for inclusion in Lily Childs' february femmes fatales, an urban fantasy/horror anthology. Veronica counts among her mentors - Carole A Parker, Lily Childs, Paul D Brazill, Richard Godwin, Joyce Juzwik and Vicki Abelson. She is currently working on the third draft of her first novel – a memoir – as well the second draft of her first fiction novel, a fantasy novel and the publication of a collection of her flash fiction and short stories. Lily's The Feardom and Vicki Abelson's Women Who Write Facebook writing group have both been a tremendous source of support and inspiration for Veronica. Veronica’s writings can be found athttp://veronicathepajamathief.blogspot.com/ andhttp://veronicathepajamathiefwritespoetry.blogspot.com/, andhttps://veronicathepajamathief.wordpress.com/
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