The letters lay forgotten in the old, black suitcase for fifty years. They encompassed nearly the whole of a young man’s existence, from schoolboy to dashing soldier. George Elliot Rich lived though times of uncertainty as he grew up in the Great Depression, and then was swept up in World War II. He, and later his young wife, Wanda, penned many letters to his mother, from whom he was separated for most of his life. She kept them, these words that were her only connection to her beloved boy, and stored them away carefully in the little trunk. They rested there, untouched, until 1982, when author Gail Elliot Downs, George’s second cousin, rescued them from her mother’s closet.
The letters left Gail, a librarian and teacher, with many questions. They went unanswered until 1991, when she decided to mark the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor by teaching her fifth grade class about World War II. The letters about George’s life provided the perfect way to spark the students’ interest in the 1940s and America’s involvement in the war. The project was met with great enthusiasm and grew to involve the entire community. Stretching over four years and commemorating major World War II events, Gail’s project, which ultimately became THE BLACK SUITCASE MYSTERY, captured the hearts and imaginations of several successive classes of children and closed the gap between the past and the present.
THE BLACK SUITCASE MYSTERY is beautifully written and filled with fascinating stories and historical details. The letters are touching and supported by multiple first-hand accounts of World War II, providing a poignant window into the past and a glimpse of a world that is gone. There are interviews and notes from veterans, including men who flew with George, as well as a combat nurse. One of the most special guests was George’s wife, Wanda, who was then still living. These remarkable people shared their memories and experiences with Gail and her students, and through this book, with readers today.
THE BLACK SUITCASE MYSTERY is not just the heartwarming and well-written true account of one soldier in a vast conflict. It’s a remembrance of them all, and of all that was sacrificed to bring an end to the Nazi regime and the evil it represented.
~Heather Stockard for IndieReader