If you are looking for a good book with a Midwestern touch “Stars Over Clear Lake” would be a great choice. The book is set in the Clear Lake and Algona, Iowa area in the early 1940’s. Author Loretta Ellsworth grew up in Mason City but now lives in Minnesota.
A main character of the book, Lorraine Kindred’s most cherished memories are of the Surf Ballroom, a place where Lorraine and her high school friends danced the night away to the music of big bands. Returning to the Surf years later, memories are rekindled and buried secrets resurfaced.
Lorraine lives on a farm and when her brother enlists in the U.S Army, her father hires German war prisoners from the prison camp in Algona to help with the farm work. Lorraine meets the prisoners and learns they are not all Nazis as some people think. Most are young men drafted into the German Army and victims of war. Although fiction, the book is based on real happenings of the time.
Book Club members found this a perfect opportunity to visit the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake and also the POW Museum in Algona. Both places have interesting displays of memorabilia and pictures of the time period. In Algona, members also visited a Nativity scene made in the 40’s by the prisoners during their time in prison camp. Imagine you are thousands of miles from home at Christmas, your country is at war and you are a prisoner. The main architect felt so lonely he was compelled to build a small Nativity scene. The Camp Commander was so impressed he suggested building a larger scene. It was funded by the prisoners. They worked many hours, donating what little money they earned and left it for the people of the area. The scene with half life-sized figures is open for viewing each December (and other times of the year by appointment). It is well worth the trip to Algona.
The outing made this book come to life. It is available at the LeRoy Public Library. Stop by Monday – Thursday from 1 to 8 or Saturday morning from 9-1.