When the “greatest generation” came home from World War II, many of the men returned to college on the GI Bill, a saga that has been the subject of numerous books and movies. But the story of their wives, also part of that greatest generation, has seldom been told.
Kate McIntosh, the young mother of a toddler and a newborn, struggles with the challenges of being isolated in barracks-like World War II housing in Willow Run Village, with no car, little money, and a mostly absent husband., Mark, her husband, attends classes at the university during the day and works on the assembly line at the nearby auto plant at night. He is rarely home. When she and Mark meet with other graduate students, Kate feels awkward and excluded, with nothing to talk about but diapers and pureed carrots.
Kate is determined to find ways to reach beyond the confines of her life. She befriends her rural Tennessee neighbors, teaching the illiterate mother and son to read; gets involved in the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaign; creates a garden in the weedy field behind their building; and finds new strength and talents she didn’t know she had. At the same time, she attempts to quell her rising anxiety about what might be going on between Mark and a fellow graduate student, Amanda. Things come to a head when Mark is seriously injured in an accident and Kate has new challenges to face.