• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (January 17, 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.
About Teresa Messineo
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.
Connect with Teresa on Facebook.
World War I was given the title of “The War to End All Wars.” And while there was peace for a short while, it did not take long for a power hungry, hate monger, Hitler, to start war anew, one from which no country was immune. For Josephine (Jo) McMahon, an Irish-Italian girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, and Kay Elliott, a sheltered girl from a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania, WWII would change their lives forever.
Determined to do their duty for their country, Jo and Kay enlist in the Army Nursing Corps. They meet while in nurse training together in New York, and truly become best friends. Kay gets the plum assignment in Hawaii. Fancy balls, never ending sun, tons of good looking officers, and delicious food almost making nursing feel like heaven. She marries the man of her dreams. In her letters to Jo, Kay teases her about getting the best assignment while Jo is off somewhere else. Life was never so good, until Pearl Harbor is bombed by the Japanese.
On the other side of the world, Jo serves valiantly first in Africa, then Italy, and then France. She ends up at the front with the German army advancing. As they close the field hospital down, there are not enough transports to get Jo and the 6 injured men she has been caring for out of harm’s way.
And so, life as an Army nurse is nothing like the recruiters told them it would be. Instead it is filled with fear, enemies, artillery, and an endless line of injured and dying military personnel and noncombatants. Limited life sustaining supplies, lack of food, and even hostility from enlisted US military personnel make being a nurse a test of will. How dedicated can Kay and Jo be when there is nothing to rely on? The main question is whether or not they will even survive the war.
Ms. Messineo reports that she spent 7 years researching and even interviewed two aged WWII survivors wth the goal in mind of making the story authentic. Due to her research and her writing skill, Ms. Messineo presents a realistic picture of the war. Hollywood cannot really do the truth justice. Of course, since I am an RN, I was deeply interested in reading about my forebears, even though the story was fictional. Truthfully, I wanted the book to end sooner than it did, and that was only because the ongoing suffering was getting hard to bear. However, in order for the book to be as authentic and as good as it was, it actually ended at the right time. I would give this book 4 ½ of 5 stars.
I again would like to thank TLC Book Tours for allowing me to have a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest book review. This opportunity introduced me to another author I might not have discovered on my own. I am grateful.
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