When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin is one of those novels where readers have a gripping mystery and can learn something too. The third and final book of the series follows the Avery family. Based in Boston this plot includes the Battle of the Atlantic and US Navy WAVES, a unit of women volunteers.
Although Sundin does not personally have experience in the armed forces, for her it is all in the family. “The year I started writing this book is the same year my son enlisted in the Navy. I was walking the path with him as we adjusted to the culture and the terms. I also had a military connection through my family. My grandfather was a medic in the Navy during World War II and my great uncle was a B-17 bomber pilot. My grandfather also trained US spies in the German language.”
Through her engaging characters people realize the numerous contributions women made to the war effort. Although not eligible for combat duty, as more men went off to war, the WAVES performed jobs in the aviation community, medical professions, science, technology, and communication. Characters include: Nora an engineer, Lillian a pharmacist, and Tess, using her degree in business to supervise the clerical staff. Their unconventional ways had them band together in a man’s world, unlike most women who stayed at home, did not have a job, or never attended college.
Sundin commented about the WAVES, “Remember, before the WAVES, the previous role of women was to be nurses. I wanted to show how the Navy did not want the WAVES at first, fearing women would get in the way and distract men. Eventually women like my characters were seen as professional, efficient, and competent. I know the picture of Rosie The Riveter is still popular today. I have had people today think it sexist that women were not allowed in combat during World War II. But we must remember the times. I think the WAVES were actually progressive. We have to be careful not to judge the past by the standards of today. The WAVES were brave and forward thinking women. I think they paved the way for women in the military today.”
The plot has readers spell bound as they find out about the brutality of the Nazis, the threat of German spies and saboteurs, as well as the anti-submarine efforts including radar, weapons, and tactics. Lt. Dan Avery uses his skills to fight German U-boats, after being assigned to an escort carrier during the peak of the Battle of the Atlantic.
To make the mystery applicable to Northeast America Sundin stated, “I did take some liberties. In Europe German spies did land by U-boats and there were home grown ones as well. They went after the Resistance to try to quell them. For example, they took over much of the Dutch resistance. I used creativity in taking what the Germans did in Europe to America.”
The theme of the story is how the main characters, Tess and Dan, grow in their jobs, as individuals, and in their relationship. They are opposites in that Tess is playful, cheerful, and sociable while Dan is serious, an introvert, and someone who builds walls.
With the backdrop of World War II Sundin weaves together a fascinating story with fascinating characters. Part historical, part mystery, with a tinge of romance the finale of this three book series is a home run.