Every Memorial Day when I was young, my mother and I would attend a service at the local cemetery. The Boy Scouts were there to raise the flag. Local veterans were there in uniform. And a woman was there selling small, red poppies for us to pin to our shirts in memory of those who lost their lives while fighting for our country, a tradition that began during World War I.
Among the familiar faces at the event was an older man, older than my grandparents, who was always perched in a front row seat in his lawn chair. He dressed in a suit and tie with a collection of ribbons pinned to his lapel. On his head, he wore a tan colored pith helmet fashioned with a chin strap.
He was a World War I veteran.
My mother recalls the day Arlie Oppenheim was given a turn to share his experiences with war. While other veterans in their speeches gave a rousing call to support the military, this man had a different message.
“War is hell!” he said.
And he is right.
I recently read A Poppy in Remembrance by Michelle Ule. This historical fiction book is set in World War I and spans the length of the war. A young journalist named Claire is ready to make her way in the world as a woman newspaper writer. She is anxious to break free from beneath her father’s shadow and she is struggling with questions of faith.
Claire is an American who along with her father and mother is sent by a Boston newspaper to Europe and Egypt to cover the war for the American people. Along the way, Claire falls in love…she thinks.
Michelle Ule did a fantastic job conveying the horrors of World War I without being graphic. There are no details in the book that will keep you up at night, but it will impress upon you that World War I was an awful war where many men lost their lives for all sorts of reasons.
In A Poppy in Remembrance, Claire also meets Oswald Chambers, the author of My Utmost for His Highest, who during World War I was a Bible teacher and a chaplain who was popular with many young adults. He spent time answering their questions and challenging them to figure out what they believe about God. He patiently does the same for Claire.
I so admire Michelle Ule as an author. Last year her biography, Mrs. Oswald Chambers, was published. I enjoyed that book immensely so I was delighted that for her next book she chose to imagine what it would have been like to be one of those young people who meets Oswald Chambers and his family. Michelle is so clever to have found a way to imagine within the time and space of history that she researched for her last book.
I would highly recommend that you read both books. It might be helpful to read Mrs. Oswald Chambers first, so you have a good picture of the Chambers family in your head while you read A Poppy in Remembrance. Or if fiction is more of a draw for you, A Poppy in Remembrance could be read first. I’m sure the book will pique your curiosity about the Chambers family and you will want to read the biography, too.
If you want to find out more about A Poppy in Remembrance or Oswald Chambers, I highly recommend you check out Michelle Ule’s blog. Here are some posts to explore:
Themes from My Utmost for His Highest in Poppy
The World War I Charge of the Light Brigade
What’s the Significance of Poppies and World War I?
You can even hear the author read the first chapter aloud!
The First Chapter of A Poppy in Remembrance
Here is some additional information about Arlie Oppenheim:
Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the above links are part of the Amazon Affiliate Program. If you purchase after clicking the link, I will receive a very small fee. All opinions in this blog post are my own honest opinions and are not influenced by participation in this program.
7 thoughts on “A Poppy in Remembrance: A World War I Veteran and a Book Review”
Wonderful story about Arlie! I’m so glad you enjoyed Poppy!
Thank you, Michelle!
Thank you, Michelle! I thought you would enjoy hearing about Arlie!
Thanks for this review, Rachel. I’m right in the middle of reading the book myself, and it’s so great that you had this personal connection with a WW I veteran. I’m reading My Utmost through this year because of the impact of Biddy’s bio.
Oh, I’m sure Michelle would be glad to know that both of us are reading My Utmost this year because of her. Hope you are enjoying Poppy!
This is my Uncle Arlie! I actually think he was my paternal grandfather’s Uncle Arlie, but we all called him that. He was a very loud, loving man. My grandparents took me up to see him when I was a child, and he took us to the Pittsburgh Zoo. Otherwise, he would come visit our family in NC almost every year.
So cool! Thanks for commenting. He was a Schwenksville treasure!