Event with Christina Larsen

On Sunday, November 12 at 4 pm, Laguna Beach Books is pleased to welcome Laguna local Tina Larsen to the store. Tina will be discussing her new book, My Own Darling.

On a fall day in 1924, Mary Merrell, a scrappy, brown-eyed, twelve-year-old, caught the attention of a classmate—a blond, blue-eyed Swede—named Grant Valentine. Mary and her friends were playing softball behind the elementary school. Known for striking out batters with her “razzle dazzle” figure-eight pitch, she also was considered an “arrow on wheels” atop a bicycle.

My Own Darling, A Love Story for the Ages from the Greatest Generation, a new release from Windflower Press, documents a more innocent time in American history. Laguna Beach resident and author, Christina Valentine Larsen, artfully captures the voices of her parents through their war time correspondence.

Like many others, her parents’ lives changed on December 7th when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Within a few months, her father was sent to the South Pacific.

Christina Larsen says that her father’s obligation in the Army Reserves led to a long and illustrious career in the military. He served as an Artillery Officer in the 225th Field Artillery unit, organized out of the 222nd Field Artillery Regiment from Utah and the 106th Field Artillery Regiment originally from New York. The 225th trained with the 40th Division activated in anticipation of WWII.

It could take weeks for the letters to arrive, she says. Even though the military censored their letters, Grant and Mary were adept at veiling information.

“Censors were unable to extract the intimacy from their words of love and loss,” Larsen says. “Daddy spoke of harrowing experiences when Americans took the Philippines from the Japanese. My mother tells of making tough decisions alone, something she never thought she would have to do.”

After Grant returned home in 1945, the letters were packed in a large brown pigskin suitcase with straps, most likely from Grant’s college days. Both Grant and Mary were quick to point out that their words were “racy” and very personal, and the family was not allowed access.

“The suitcase was not opened until my mother’s death in 2002,” Larsen says. “The stationary had yellowed but the lines of love were still legible.”

During the creation of this book, the author insisted the messages sent between her parents remain unchanged and just as her parents wrote them. She says, “To alter their perfect words in any way would diminish their voices, as they tell their own story of a man and woman torn apart, staying alive until they could be together again. This was a desperate time for my parents. When others lost loved ones, they wondered if they would ever see each other again.”

Event date: 
Sunday, November 12, 2017 - 4:00pm to 6:00pm
Event address: 
Laguna Beach Books
1200 S. Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651