It is The War to End All Wars, and Ena Connelly, a keenly sensory and extraordinary woman, is newly married and living on an Ontario farm. The shock of violence in far-off battlefields is echoed in a terror much closer to hand. With bold perception and remarkable self-reliance, Ena faces a dramatically altered world. Ena is self-contained, and careful not to reach too far into the turbulent emotional lives of others. As the war progresses, Ena forms a fierce bond of loyalty for Blain, the delightful but (necessarily) duplicitous boy who comes to work for her. Through Blain, she learns to extend herself in unexpected ways-- to reach outside of herself, and to risk. Ena also grows closer to her sister-in-law, Sarah, a gifted painter. Sarah is unafraid of confronting emotional turmoil and passion but she doesn't have Ena's absolute clarity of purpose and aim. Ena helps Sarah move closer to the life she wants, while Sarah opens Ena to a terrible and essential kind of beauty. When studying Sarah's paintings, Ena comments that it is not the surface that matters, but rather what is underneath. The same is true of this novel -- underneath the meticulous detail of daily life is the emotional landscape of persistent, courageous women, watching the violence of war in Europe (World War I) and domestic violence closer to home.
Valerie Mills-Milde lives, works, and writes in London Ontario. She is the author of the novel After Drowning (2016), and her short fiction has appeared in numerous Canadian literary magazines. When she is not writing, she is a clinical social worker in private practice.
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