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January 28, 2009 > Book Review: The Stone Must Break

Book Review: The Stone Must Break

By Robert A. Garfinkle

The Stone Must Break, by Jean Lee Porter, (iUniverse, New York) 2007. Pp 421. Price $23.95, (paperback; ISBN 978-0-595-45462-4).

It must have been wonderful living in San Francisco, even during the stressful times of World War II, as told in this story by eyewitness Jean Lee Porter. This novel is about the struggles of twenty-year-old Carmel St. John to become a lead vocalist with a Big Band in the City. She wanted to sing for the troops and for the man of her life, Dr. Phillip Barron. Both are from San Jose. Carmel has moved in with her aunt and uncle in San Francisco to pursue her dream career.

Carmel and Phillip are long-time friends, but before their love can blossom, the doctor, unaware that Carmel is now infatuated with him, is sent out to the Pacific war on a hospital ship. Carmel's brother also goes to war and eventually winds up being severely wounded in battle and is sent to Phillip's ship for medical attention.

Musician Jerry Cassidy befriends Carmel and gets her singing gigs with local bandleaders. He hopes to win her love, but Carmel meets a smooth talking local black-market kingpin, Caesar Almalto. Caesar takes Carmel out to fancy restaurants and ballrooms, but is unable to get her into bed with him. Though she appreciates all that Caesar does for her, she wants to save herself for Phillip.

When grave problems develop at her parent's ranch in San Jose, Carmel is faced with the decision of whether to stay in San Francisco and pursue her career or go home to take over management of the ranch. Family comes before career. While she is managing the ranch, the war rages on in the Pacific and she worries if Phillip will survive and come home to her.

I enjoyed this story and the suspense that the author has woven into the plot. I certainly recommend this book to those who love to read romantic tales or who would like a glimpse of what a singer had to go through in that era, and life in wartime San Francisco.

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