In Don’t Put the Boats Away, World War II has just ended. The Suttons are struggling to rebuild their lives after the death of a beloved family member. Daughter Harriet goes to Madison for graduate work in chemistry at a time when women weren’t supposed to have careers. Son Nat flunks out of Yale in the hope that his father will finally agree to send him to music school because he’s passionate about becoming a jazz musician. Instead, Nat winds up working as a sweeper in the Malt-O-Meal Mill in Northfield during the frigid winter of 1947. Eventually he makes his way to Minneapolis and works as a jazz musician until he discovers he can’t support his family playing jazz. This novel is a deep dive into postwar history from 1945 through the 1960s. Issues like sexism and alcoholism are embedded in the novel but ultimately it’s a family saga about resilience.
This is a family that is reeling over the loss of their son/brother/step-brother, Eddie. How it affects each of them and how they move forward.
Harriet is going to college to study chemistry so she can work alongside her father. The way she is received by an advisor from the Minnesota College should not have surprised me, but he did. A woman wanting to study such a field as chemistry?! Gasp, that’s a man’s only field. Thankfully the next advisor she spoke with wasn’t so harsh. Unfortunately, Harriet didn’t know that her father, at this point in time, wasn’t too keen on the idea of her working for him.
Nat has big dreams to become a musician, but again their father didn’t agree. While he does eventually find his way to jazz music, he discovers he’s not making enough money to support his growing family.
I will say their dad, George, was my least favorite character. He didn’t believe in any of his children’s dreams, and he is blamed for sending Eddie to war. I know people cope in different ways with death, so maybe he thought if they took the path he wanted, they would be safer? That’s a hard one.
Alcoholism is a big issue with some of the characters, especially the mother, but if I say anymore that may be giving away spoilers.
I enjoyed reading this book. It was interesting to me how each character dealt with the hardships they faced. I also like that the story took place over 20 plus years. I liked seeing how the characters grew into the people they were meant to be.
Thank you Suzy Approved Book Tours, Author Ames Sheldon, and She Writes Press for letting me be on tour today! Grab your copy now!
Book Rating: 4/5
For the grand finale this would pair nicely with a Shannon Reserve Chardonnay 2016.