MISS YOU contains letters so unaffected, so poignant, so humorous that it reminds us immediately of how much we have lost in this post-epistolary age. It also includes a lively narrative, at once tender and suspenseful. In 1941, Barbara Woodall met Charles Taylor on a blind date in Fairburn, Georgia. Until April of the next year when they eloped, the two carried on an awkward but effective courtship through almost daily letters. A year later they had a child, but when Charles left for France as a second lieutenant, they had to fall back on letters to convey the heartsickness of their separation.
This correspondence chronicles the effects of war on two young Americans. While Charles denied the severity of his shrapnel wounds, Barbara hid her loneliness and fear for his safety. From battle front to home front and back again, the letters traveled with news of engagements won, baby’s first steps, and always the aching refrains of how much each missed the other. Only occasionally did the two give way to despair, as when Charles worried about their future or when Barbara asked in a lovely passage, “Oh, Charles, how and when will all of this end? It’s such a big thing, and we’re just two people caught in the swirl of all this.”
They may have been ordinary people living in perilous times, but every page bespeaks their uncommon love. Barbara saved every letter she received; on the reverse of many of them Charles had sent his response. He bundled those he kept in Europe and sent them home, and fortunately, the couple saved them all through thirty-two years of moving from army base to army base. The coauthors of this collection, both historians, have added enough commentary and historical background to put the correspondence in context. Notes, an index, and suggestions for further reading accompany this admirable compilation, one that restores romance to history, humanity to an inhumane period in our recent past.