It was fitting that I read The Amazing Interlude on July 4, because the plot of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s novel grows out of a young girl’s developing sense of what being an American means.
The Amazing Interlude by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Illustrations by the Kinneys. 1918 bestseller #3.
Project Gutenberg ebook #1590. My grade: A-.
Sara Lee Kennedy, 19, is planning to marry a man “as slow as he was sure, as unimaginative as he was faithful,” when a letter telling of the appalling conditions of the Belgian Army touches her imagination.
Sara offers to go to France before marrying Harvey if the Methodist women donate money for her to run a soup kitchen.
Though she knows no French, has no credentials, and has no contacts to help her, Sara gets to Europe and sets up a soup kitchen in a roofless house in Dunkirk, a few hundred yards from the front.
Her finacé regards her decision as treacherous. While Sara makes soup and cleans wounds, Harvey fumes at home.
Finally Harvey explodes.
He accuses the Methodist ladies of being publicity hounds just as Sara’s letter arrives asking them for more funds for the kitchen.
She’s recalled to America.
When Harvey refuses even to listen to Sara’s stories of what she saw in France, Sara breaks the engagement.
She saw him for what he was, not deliberately cruel, not even unkindly, but selfish, small, without vision. Harvey was for his own fireside, his office, his little family group. His labor would always be for himself and his own. Whereas Sara Lee was, now and forever, for all the world, her hands consecrated to bind up its little wounds and to soothe its great ones. Harvey craved a cheap and easy peace. She wanted no peace except that bought by service, the peace of a tired body, the peace of the little house in Belgium where, after days of torture, weary men found quiet and ease and the cheer of the open door.
Rinehart lets Sara find love, but the romance is secondary to Sara’s finding herself.
©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni