Georgia Lowe grew up hearing stories about the Bonus March of 1932. As a child, sometimes she listened and sometimes she didn't. Decades later, as an adult those stories served as the framework for her debut novel The Bonus.
What was the Bonus March? I have to tell you, I didn't know until a few weeks ago. World War I veteran were promised service bonuses in 1924, but the government wanted them deferred until 1945. Veterans across the U.S. had different ideas, like marching to Washington, D.C. to demand their bonuses. Until recent events (like a near government shutdown), I can't really imagine that happening. You work hard serving your country, and then you're denied compensation.
It was a fool's mission to some, but for the fictional character Will Hardy it's a chance to report on history for his newspaper. Will is a veteran himself, but tries to forget his experiences. The march will take him away from girlfriend Bonnie. Is it love? Will isn't sure what he feels. It's like he's afraid to love someone.
Through Will's eyes you can see the organizers of the march had good intentions, but some of the logistics weren't well thought out. Cars start breaking down. Towns across the U.S. reject the veterans. Food, water, and money are scarce. Personal hygiene takes a backseat. People start dying, and it becomes known as the death march rather than the bonus march. Most people would give up and go back home. Bonnie eventually joins Will, and even she can see that this is more than just a march. The devastation becomes too much for her. Why fight for something you might not get? Lowe's writing helps you see the desperation in their eyes. Some people were barely holding it together before the march, and this could be their only shot to rebound financially.
Once arriving in D.C., the bonus marchers are welcomed by some, like General Glassford, and rejected by others, like General MacArthur. Congress, President Hoover, and others have no intention of paying up. The marchers are peaceful, but removing them becomes anything but. At times this book can be emotionally draining. The U.S. government really turned their backs on people who fought for this country?
For historical novels, this is a very good. Rather than just spitting out the facts, you see it through someone else eyes.