The Inspiration for Shining Through

Shining Through takes place in the early 1940s. Except for the family history in Almost Paradise, all my earlier books were set in contemporary times. Linda Voss, a legal secretary and protagonist of this novel, came to me almost as I typed the final page of my third book, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with her until I put her into that dangerous, compelling era.

When you grow up in Brooklyn — I guess the same is true for Iowa — you look for significance in your life. As a kid, you yearn not to be ordinary, to have something to call your own. I was born on December 7, 1943, the second anniversary of Pearl Harbor.During World War II, my dad, an electrical engineer, worked on US Harbor defenses. His brother, my uncle Herb, was a B-26 bomber pilot during this time; he flew many missions over Germany, and named his bomber for me: the Little Sue. So I’ve always had a personal stake in that period. And of course, like so many Jews, I realized what might have happened to me had my ancestors not left Hungary, Germany, and Poland to live in the United States.

Another factor was patriotism. The more I studied American history of the late thirties and early forties, the more I realized that America’s entry into the war was a complex and often political process. Still, it was something direct and clean and true about people’s motives during that time. It can fairly be called a battle of good against evil, and we were the good guys.

Why make Linda a war hero and not a gallant home-front girl? Well, my first three novels all have protagonists who are extraordinary, ordinary women, smart and gutsy, who triumphed over some personal obstacle in their lives. At first, I planned to make Shining Through a love story. But then I thought: why not make my heroine a true heroine. There are larger confrontations than defining an overbearing husband were even facing up to and conquering a serious personal problem. Let my Linda, a legal secretary from Queens, rise to the opportunity to do something truly brave. If ordinary men can rise to greatness, why not women? (In Europe, the Resistance movement certainly had many courageous dames.) Early in the novel, Linda gets into a huff and demands, “If men can’t be men, who do they expect to be brave? Women?”

As she discovers, that is precisely the answer.