As in her previous novels, The Pieces We Keep focuses on a particular, relatively obscure element of World War II. Ms. McMorris’ careful, in-depth research allows readers to experience firsthand the fears, challenges, and other everyday emotions of the time period while shedding light on the infiltration of Nazi spies into the United States. Most history books would have students believe that other than Pearl Harbor, the country itself remained physically untouched by the enemies. The Pieces We Keep shows the truth in a manner that is every bit as frightening for its anonymity as it is for the ramifications behind such acts.
Although frequently overused, Ms. McMorris uses the two narrator/two time period plot device to great effect in The Pieces We Keep. Audra’s struggles to protect her son as well as her ensuing desperation as Jack’s fears grow more all-encompassing are well-written, balancing the pathos of the situation with Audra’s natural skepticism to prevent the story from succumbing to overwrought melodrama. Vivian’s own personal dramas are equally poignant but there is a natural urgency to her problems caused by the war that does not exist in Audra’s narrative. This urgency establishes an ;on Vivian’s story that makes sense since it holds the key to Jack’s recovery. The two stories tie together seamlessly, while Ms. McMorris allows readers to determine for themselves the true origins of Jack’s dreams.
The Pieces We Keep is simultaneously predictable and fascinating. It is predictable in that a reader has a fairly accurate idea of the overall direction of the novel, both its flashbacks and its present-day setting. However, Ms. McMorris adds subtle twists that prevent a reader from entirely anticipating the outcome. These shifts are what make the story so enjoyable; the obvious path deviates ever so slightly to create a story more nuanced than a reader expects and build an intricate drama where nothing is as apparent as it seems. That Audra and Vivian are highly sympathetic characters is an additional bonus.