A well-research WWII story with themes of race, gender, family dynamics and the polio epidemic. The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain #books #reading

The Stolen Marriage

By Diane Chaberlain


Book Review:


I was drawn to this book because I was craving a good historical fiction story. This one takes place in the 1940s and explores many issues of the times. It's well researched and just when you think you have things figured out, you realize you don't. The story is about a young woman who makes a mistake that changes the trajectory of her life. A mistake that would not be as life altering if it happened today. Diane Chamberlain also creates an amazing sense of time and place and she totally captures the bigotry and prejudices pervasive in the South during this period.
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*Discussion Questions



1. How do the details of the backdrop of World War II, including both rationing for war and the polio epidemic, enhance your experience of the story?

2. What kind of tone do you think the prologue sets for the rest of the novel? Did it succeed in making you want to read further? Why or why not?

3. Compare and contrast Tess's upbringing in Little Italy and Henry's upbringing as a wealthy member of southern society. How do their backgrounds influence the decisions they make and how they navigate the world?

4. What do you think the significance is of Tess and her mother reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Why do you think that story in particular resonated with Tess?

5. On page 138, Tess writes to Gina that she is still planning on becoming a nurse despite her new family's disapproval, saying, "I've worked hard for this and I'm going to get that license!" Why do you think Tess clings to this dream and works so hard to make it happen?

6. Most of the letters in the novel are from Tess to Gina, and readers only get to see a few of Gina's responses. How do you think only having access to half of the conversation affected your reading experience? Did you feel like you were missing anything?

7. What do you think of Reverend Sam? Can he truly speak to the dead or is he simply trying to comfort Tess? Does it matter whether or not his "powers" are authentic?

8. On page 237, Adora says, "Everybody always 'spected Hank'd marry Violet and that would have been a terrible thing. Maybe you saved him from something terrible, Miss Tess. You think of it that way, all right?" Do you agree with her? Did Tess "save" Henry in the end?

9. Why do you think that when Tess was finally allowed to use her nursing abilities she suddenly became much more confident and able to stand up to her husband and Ruth?

10. Near the end of the book, Henry compares his experiences being "trapped" by society to Tess' experiences being "trapped" in marriage. Do you think this is a fair comparison for him to make? Why or why not?

(Discussion Questions by Author)


Book Summary
The Stolen Marriage is a compelling novel from Diane Chamberlain, the bestselling author of The Silent Sister, Pretending to Dance and The Midwife's Confession.

In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina. Hickory is a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess's new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she's trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town's prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed for the death. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift in a hostile town, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her - a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he's letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, taking the lives of some of its children, including a boy well known to the Kraft family, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital in less than three days. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry's wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry's actions grow more baffling and alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband's mysterious behavior and save her own life?
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