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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
All My Love, Johnny: Memories and Loss in Troy, New York by M Thomas Apple is a non-fiction genealogy and family history book detailing the intersecting lives of the author's grandparents in the pre and post-seasons of World War II. As a young child, Apple was casually made aware that his grandmother, Beatrice “Betty” Connally, had been married prior to her union with Apple's grandfather, Sergeant Allison “Al” Langworthy. Betty's personal stories and a collection of letters between herself and her first husband, Lieutenant John “Johnny” Hart, as well as other bits of information on Betty, Johnny, and Al through Apple's exhaustive and deeply committed research weave together a story of many moments of love, wartime friendship, loss, anguish, and family.
All My Love, Johnny fell into my lap a year to the day after I'd been to the landing beaches in Normandy to reconcile myself to the legacy of my own great-uncle. It felt almost like kismet and, because of this serendipitous timing, M Thomas Apple's work spoke to me as more than just the connection between a reader and individuals in a book. From a literary standpoint, the writing is tight, clean, and immediately engrossing. The inclusion of letters and photographs puts faces to names, and names to the heart of Betty, Johnny, and Al. There is one in particular between Al and Betty, who were engaged at this point, that actually moved me to tears. Betty had made a statement in her grief that she wished she had also died when Johnny had. His written response to this, while well intended, shows with vivid clarity that Betty is still processing her loss and that Al is at a loss himself as to how to console her in the hopes that she will simply move forward. In a single paragraph, the crux of three converging lives and the disparity that puts each at arm's length is never more profound than when Al writes, “But to live in the past in your mind is dangerous and disastrous.” This is a book well worth reading.