'A Bridge Across the Ocean' explores the war-torn tales of three women
by LUCIA VITI
Published - 03/14/17 - 11:21 AM | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Passengers aboard the Queen Mary during World War II.
Passengers aboard the Queen Mary during World War II.
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San Diego native Susan Meissner presented her seventeenth novel, “A Bridge Across the Ocean,” at Warwick’s on Tuesday, March 14 at 7:30 p.m.

The compelling and poignant drama plots the lives of three women, two 1946 World War II war brides, Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina escaping the throes of her abusive Nazi husband; Simone Deveraux, the sole surviving daughter of a French resistance spy; and Brette Caslake, a present-day California clairvoyant. While sailing across the Atlantic on the Queen Mary, Deveraux and Caslake share harbored secrets. Only one docks in the New York harbor. Seventy-five years later, Caslake plans to solve a mystery while visiting the Queen Mary at her friend’s request. Meissner’s novel is as much a history lesson as it is a page turner.

The “storied past” of the Queen Mary inspired Meissner to write “A Bridge Across the Ocean.” The former cruise liner, troop carrier, and World War II war bride ship – 13 voyages for 20,000 brides – now serves as a floating hotel. Meissner noted, “The ship is believed to be inhabited by hovering ghosts; the supposed number far greater than the tally of lives lost aboard the Queen over the years she sailed. As a crafter of novels that begin with the thought, ‘What if?’ its history was a great place to set a novel.”

In addition to spending time on the ship, Meissner researched World War II war brides who migrated to America. One British war bride, June Boots Allen, became her “go-to for details.” A then eighteen-year-old Allen had migrated in 1946 with her young son while her American serviceman husband fought in D-Day before marching across France to Germany. Allen shared stories of war brides on the Queen Mary that covered the gamut of emotions.

Meissner said that some war brides endured a “long and difficult transition” while others found America “exciting, fresh and wondrous. “However, they all had one thing in common,” she added. “They’d survived the war; six long years of deprivation and fear. The vast majority emigrated with the strength that endurance of such magnitude loans a person. Some brides wept at the sight of oranges and bananas in the ship’s dining room on the day they sailed away. They had seen neither in years.”

The Queen Mary was one of several ocean liners who transported war brides from Europe and Australia across the Atlantic to the U.S. and Canada. “For me, the Queen’s role as a transport represented the hope and light of life after the war,” Meissner continued. “World War II is the backdrop for millions of personal stories of loss, hope, determination, and resilience. You don’t have to look hard to find them; they are right there underneath every sweeping, monumental event.”

Meissner described World War II as character defining years. Survival and determination “sent everyone everywhere scrambling to find a way to hold on to their humanity and the capacity to be generous and kind,” she said.

Meissner entices the reader with a journey that vacillates between the past and the present. “I like to dovetail historical and contemporary within the pages of my novels because history is always speaking to us,” she said. “We can’t go back in time physically but we can through the pages of story. That to me is the best way to embrace the past, learn from it, appreciate it, and remember it.”

A San Diego native who attended Point Loma Nazarene University, Meissner has published 17 novels including The Shape of Mercy, a Carol Award Winner, ECPA’s Fiction Book of the Year a RITA Finalist and most notably named one of the 100 Best Books by Publishers Weekly in 2008. Meissner is also pastor’s wife and mother of four who writes small group curriculum for her San Diego church.
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