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Despite growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father, and having to cope with the untimely death of his mother, Robert Mattox has retained his innocence and idealism. He woos and marries his first love, Ellen, and it appears his life is set for a happily-ever-after ending.
But World War II is raging, and its vortex snatches him away from his young bride. He finds himself fighting in Europe, witnessing and participating in the unspeakable ugliness and brutality of war. His love for Ellen holds him back from utter despondency, and his will to fight and live draws strength from his desire to return home to her.
When he finally does return home to Kentucky, he’s exhausted, jaded, and scarred — inside and out. His worst fear is how Ellen will respond to the changes in him, but when he gets home he finds that Ellen is different, too — much different.
Can things between them ever be the same again? Or will their love be the war’s most tragic casualty?