• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 3, 2017)
A powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight—a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival combining the grit and selflessness of Band of Brothers with the emotional resonance of The Nightingale.
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more.
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineo’s thrilling novel brings to life the pain and uncertainty of war and the sustaining power of love and friendship, and illuminates the lives of the women who risked everything to save others during a horrifying time.
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Jo McMahon and Kay Elliott are friends and nurses in New York City. When the call goes out for nurses to serve in the war, Jo and Kay enthusiastically sign up. Jo and Kay are sent to opposite fronts. Kay begins her service basking on the beaches of Hawaii only to have the reality of war come crashing down on her quickly. Captured by the Japanese and transferred to an internment camp in Malinta, Kit has only begun to scratch the surface of the horrors of War. Jo eventually ends up in France, her field hospital is set up to transfer, but the Doctor keeps her back with six patients who don't fit on the transport van. However, the transport van never comes back for them. Eventually running out of supplies and hope, Jo does her best to keep her soldiers alive until help arrives. Both women try to think of happier times in their friendship to keep themselves going.
Powerful, captivating, raw and real, I could not tear my eyes away from Jo and Kit's stories. I of course knew that women did much more in the War than they were ever given credit for, but Jo and Kit's stories are just two small examples of how much the heroic nurses accomplished. I was astounded by Jo's courage, strength and skill in keeping her six soldiers alive while danger loomed constantly around her as well as Kit's will to survive the dark, festering internment camp where people were constantly dying of starvation. The alternating story lines between Jo and Kit kept me rapidly turning pages to see where their stories would lead. I enjoyed that Kit and Jo were very much their own person and chose different paths. Their experiences also showed the real effects of war. I was constantly amazed by how much I didn't know about women's roles during World War II, especially the nurses who were captured in the Japanese internment camp and how they were forbidden to talk about their experience. Deemed the 'Angels of Bataan' these are the women who should be our heroes. As Kit says "if the world of men ever tears itself apart again, it will take an army of nurses to put it back together." Written with passion and rich historical detail, this is a story I will never forget.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind The Fire by Night,her first novel. She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.
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