“The Poppy Wife,” by Caroline Scott, is a poignant book about a search for answers, where that search can lead us and why we need answers in the first place.
This novel did a superb job of placing me, the reader, in the shoes of the main characters, Edie and Harry. The descriptions of the destruction that war leaves behind were thorough and I felt more than once that I was standing among the wreckage with smoke rising from so many things lost.
“The Poppy Wife” is beautifully told, and there is a sense of hope throughout, a true testament to the skills of its author. I felt the shock at the end because of this and as a result the book left a lasting impression on me.
The story begins with Edie receiving a picture in the mail of her supposed dead husband. He’s been listed as one of the “missing, believed dead” men, but with no recovered body it is impossible for Edie not to imagine “what ifs?” For help, Edie turns to Harry, her only remaining brother-in-law who made it back from the war. She enlists his help in understanding what really happened to her husband. The journey Edie and Harry pursue allows them to experience a greater understanding, and to feel their grief, regret and mourning.
It is hard to imagine so many men lost in battle, but “The Poppy Wife” does a wonderful job of describing the desolation and the profound sense of loss for all of humanity. While experiencing this great loss, however, Edie and Harry discover hope and explore what love means on many levels. This novel is beautiful in its complexity, as it mirrors human nature. Edie and Harry are just like us—their feelings aren’t always black or white either.
The journey to understanding occurs for many of book’s characters, right along with Edie and Harry, and this is how the larger themes of the novel play out. Readers are left to ponder the true cost of war in “The Poppy Wife.”