‘The Hours Count’ by Jillian Cantor

‘The Hours Count’ by Jillian Cantor

Picking novels from my bookshelves, you’ll notice most of them are set in the mid-twentieth century, primarily during WWII and the Cold War.

I’ve always been fascinated by this era because every facet of average American life was up in the air. Being born in 1995, I’ve never experienced any fear like this, where anything could happen.

“The Hours Count,” by Jillian Cantor, is a thrilling cocktail of historical fact and fiction that revolves around Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, the only Americans executed for being Soviet spies.

Interestingly, though, the novel’s speaker isn’t either of the Rosenbergs, but their neighbor Millie Stein, who is tragically the primary spectator to the Rosenberg’s demise.

In every book, the reader is automatically the spectator, but Cantor’s writing style brings us a little closer to the action through Millie, but still keeps us far enough away so that nothing is spoiled by omniscience.

In addition to the Ethel and Julius conspiracy A plot, there is a simultaneous B plot involving Millie’s son, who is suspected to have a learning disability — a fear that rattles Millie throughout the novel — and her son’s doctor, whom she becomes romantically involved with, although she is married and the doctor has secrets of his own.

During the Cold War, there was constant fear of a Red uprising that each second felt like everyone’s last.

“The Hours Count” title perfectly captures not only the tone of the time but also the life of Millie Stein, who is thrown into an emotionally never-ending race to save the Rosenberg’s lives because, to her, they’re just Ethel and Julie, a loving couple next door with a child. She’s convinced the government has the wrong people.

This novel was so persuasive that I found myself questioning history I never experienced.

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