Camp Sunshine by Ruth Francisco
Camp Sunshine begins with a submarine attacking an oil transport vessel in the Florida Keys during WWII.
The powers that be have decided that no camps exist that are adequate for much needed amphibious training. The site selected is near the submarine attack site. General Dahl assigned Col. Walter Southers to run the site. Officially, it is named Camp Gordon Johnston; unofficially, Southers and his Post Executive Officer Occam Goodwin have dubbed it Camp Sunshine.
As Goodwin and Southers wait for their jeep to be hauled from the mud during a preliminary site visit to the camp, two soldiers run from the woods asking their superior officers to view what has been found. A family of squatters was murdered at a small shack hidden in the forest: a man, woman, and infant. In addition to each person being shot, the site had also been bombed, as if to obliterate the entire place from existence.
As Goodwin attempts to investigate, a flare is shot, signaling more practice bombing is to begin. Since the family wasn’t a white family, Southers and Georgia Senator Peppers insist upon a complete cover-up, against Goodwin’s objections.
Once the camp is finished, Vivian, the postmaster’s daughter, moves 50 miles from her primary home in Capital City, to the newly created Camp Sunshine. In the city, she had a nice two story house; here, she lives in a shack on the beach so her father can run the post office. Fifty miles seemed such a short trip, but it was such a tremendously long journey for her entire family.
Camp Sunshine is an achingly beautiful portrait of a time held suspended by war in the 1940s. In an era when so much was changing in our own country, our men (some just children) were training and dying for the war. Others gave up their homes, their pots and pans, and so much more for the war.
Camp Sunshine is a look at a time many have either forgotten or have never known. It is poetically written by an author with a grace and style with words that is found only rarely.
This book has stayed with me for weeks. It has awakened a need in me to ask questions that should have been asked a decade ago. Ruth Francisco has the ability to awaken the urge within the reader to reconnect with others. This is a rare and wonderful gift and this book is a true work of art.