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What Returns to Us

"What Returns to Us" is set in New York in 1945 just before the Japanese surrender. Soldiers, sailors and airmen are returning home after four long years in Europe or Asia. America is not the same and they are not the same either. May Gilbert, promoted from secretary to reporter in 1941 when all the able-bodied men were drafted, is witness to these transformations and writes about them with curiosity and compassion. She loves the city, she loves her job, and she doesn’t want it interrupted again by sordid love affairs or a wounded brother. Like so many others, he suffers from shell shock and has to be hospitalized. May searches for the father that abandoned them when they were children and begins her own quest for a more meaningful career. Shifted to the foreign desk on the eve of the atomic blast in Hiroshima, she finds herself the lone dissenter in the news room: the blast may end the war but at what cost? And what are the implications for the future?

In the wake of the bomb—a weapon of mass destruction—May leaves her family and personal struggles behind and travels to Hiroshima with John Hersey to gather stories from survivors.