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.
Messineo's historical novel, his debut, dovetails the hardships of friends Jo McMahon and Kay Elliot, who serve as military nurses on separate ends of the Earth during World War II. After surviving a hard childhood and enduring the reign of a rapist doctor alongside Kay in their New York hospital, Jo fights off despair by committing herself to saving the six soldiers stranded with her in a makeshift hospital tent in France. With the rest of her medical team dead, Jo single-handedly navigates illness, lack of supplies, and the threat of both Axis and Allied soldiers. Meanwhile in the Pacific, Kay is captured and held as prisoner, during which time she witnesses many atrocities. Messineo's writing style, in which scenes often play out without extensive explanation but are later elucidated, adds to the feel of wartime chaos and works well with the story's disjointed time jumps. Glimpses into Kay's brief happiness become a welcome necessity as tragedy piles on tragedy, though Jo's love story feels tacked on and unconvincing. The object of Jo's affections, a soldier, spends the majority of their time together delirious with typhus and fever. The novel's strength lies in how well it conveys mostly without sentimentality the selflessness and bravery of nurses during the darkest hours. The narrative remains engaging throughout, though the plot ultimately feels like it stops mid-sentence.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Amazing read and well researched
This book was an amazing read in that the character development was extraordinary and the deep feelings brought on by each main character were truly well portrayed in words. The ending was a little long but interesting in the change in character perspectives. Definitely worth the time to read.
Wow! Startling treatment of WWII Nurses Revealed
I enjoy historical novels that have been well researched. This book revealed amazing new events I have not come across. Well, here's another example of our government covering up information that should have been released years ago. I'm going to buy this book in hard cover to add to my books that I will share with others and for my mother who is a retired RN. This should be on our children's' reading list!