A Kiss for Luck
By Ken Blaisdell
- Paperback:383 pages
- Publisher:Lightkeeper Press (2014)
- File Size:2933 KB
- Print Length:383 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage:Unlimited
- Publisher:Lightkeeper Press (March 2, 2014)
- Publication Date:March 2, 2014
- Sold by:com Services LLC
A Kiss For Luck! is a story set during war, but it is not a story about war. It is five separate yet intertwined stories about the people whose lives are touched by a simple yet extraordinary gesture.
In the spring of 1942, with the US at war with both Germany and Japan, the Rock-Ola Manufacturing Corporation converted its factory from making juke boxes to turning out M1 Carbine rifles. By the end of the war, they would produce almost a quarter of a million of those weapons.
Part-I of the story takes place in the spring of 1944, and chronicles the lives and loves of a group of young WOWs (Women Ordnance Workers) who make up the swing-shift assembly line. One night, the girls get the idea to use their precious war-rationed lipstick and kiss a slip of paper, then write over their lip print, “A Kiss For Luck!” They then secretly tuck the slips into their rifles as a little reminder to the soldiers overseas of what they are fighting for … and what is waiting for them when they get home!
The practice is soon discovered and halted by the Army brass, however, and fewer than 500 weapons with the special talisman ever make it out the door. This book is a collection of stories connected by one of those rifles.
In Part-II of the story, the rifle, along with thousands of others, is loaded onto the Liberty ship Donald E. Shea for delivery to England in support of the fast-approaching D-Day Invasion. The crew includes a cantankerous chief engineer with a litany of stories about how he lost his two missing fingers, a by-the-book captain, a young farm boy on his first trip to sea … and a Nazi saboteur bent on stopping the ship from ever reaching England.
Part-III of the story takes place in England during the build-up for the invasion of Europe. It follows an American Army sergeant as he trains for D-Day, and also gets to know the local people, including one special young lady; a student nurse at Queen Elizabeth Hospital … and a rival for her affections, a fellow sergeant in the British Army who likes to settle things with his fists.
In Part-IV the rifle has made it into the hands of a gutsy and clever young woman in the French Resistance. A literal femme fatale, she uses her sexuality against the Nazis as effectively as she does her rifle. She and her band of partisans risk their lives nightly to derail trains, cut telephone lines, pinpoint targets for Allied bombers, and generally harass the hated Nazis in any way they can.
Part-V takes place ten years later, when, through the chance reading of a French newspaper, a writer and former war correspondent living in Chicago discovers the rifle in a farmhouse in the middle of France. Intrigued by the Kiss For Luck! slip it contains, he travels to Europe to follow the gun’s history backwards, chronicling the stories of the people whose lives it has touched—which now include his own—until he makes it all the way back to the rifle’s hometown of Chicago.
Get the tissues. First thing I did upon completion of reading this was to email Ken and ask if this way a true story. It reads and feels like it.
This is a difficult review to write because I do not want to get gushy.
At first I thought the stories would be shorts, but then they just connected with the previous one until at the end we complete the circuit.
This book will stick with me, more than because my maternal grandfather was in WWII. There’s something within these pages that places you with the characters. Not just an escape reading, not a war book, not a romance or adventure, or any type of rah-rah story.
As I said, I thought these characters were real. I felt I was being taken down memory lane during a time of uncertainty and hope.
In Ken’s own words: “And, yes, they are all fictional. But it is another welcome compliment that you felt the need to ask.
All of the background details; where and when the gun was made; life aboard a Liberty ship; the build-up to D-Day; Jeeps and tanks; life within the French resistance are all meticulously researched facts. It is only the characters and their specific situations that have been made up to weave those facts together. (I have even put all that research together into a presentation that I have given at Rotary Clubs, libraries, and book clubs.)
Two of the characters in the Liberty ship story, however, are closely based on my father, who served aboard the “floating targets” during the war. One is the 17-year-old oiler-wiper Frank (the same as my dad at the time), and the other is the ever-cussing “Second” (the colorful but loving man my dad became later in life).
While I’m not aware that anyone ever put a “Kiss For Luck” slip in any weapons, it was not unheard-of–and very welcomed–for a GI to find a packing slip in a box of ammo or something with a pair of lips emblazoned on it.”
Ken takes you on a world tour into our past. A past of death, loneliness, fear, determination, and hope. I realize this sounds corny, but sometimes the simple truth is corny and innocent. It’s what we hold dear and fight hard to keep. It’s the family stories we long to hear and then learn, years later, the storyteller kept the pain and ugliness of war from us. As my dad told me, there are some stories only another solider could ever understand, no matter the country.
Writers tell stories. Some, like our fictional correspondent, tell true life. Some, like Ken, tell us fictional tales we escape into and which will never leave us. A Kiss For Luck was weaved so that I couldn’t tell the difference and, frankly, still hope these characters are alive and well somewhere under their own names and lives. I miss them. And, I’ve repeated myself, so let me add why they feel alive…as you read you will see the story within your mind. It will unfold as a movie playing before you. You hear their voices. You know what they look like. They are the heroes of everyday people doing their best to survive and win.
It’s not easy to write a story within a story within a story leading to yet another story. To stay connected, but separate. And then pull every bit together in such a logical and emotional wrap-up. It all makes sense. There’s no extra pieces left hanging around or is anything forced into place.
I didn’t want to stop reading. I’m a little sad that this journey is over. I’m walking away in complete satisfaction. There’s no doubts. No questioning as to how this could have all happened.
Mr. Blaisdell, you’ve set yourself up…I have more of your stories to read and something tells me I won’t be disappointed. However, I’ll go on the record right now that nothing will ever touch A Kiss For Luck’s heart and soul.