Published by William Morrow on January 17th 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 fightâ€”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 Joâ€™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 placeâ€”and the hope of loveâ€”in a world thatâ€™s forever changed. With rich, superbly researched detail, Teresa Messineoâ€™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.
The Fire By Night tells the story of Jo and Kay, nurses who met while in training.Â Kay finished her training first and got the cushy assignment to Hawaii at the little known base of Pearl Harbor.Â Jo was so jealous.
Now, a few years later, Jo is in a field hospital in Europe.Â Their position is about to be overrun and they are trying to evacuate.Â She is left behind with the most difficult to transport patients to wait for the last truck to get to her.Â Suddenly she finds that they aren’t coming back for her and the Germans are only a few miles away.
Kay is in the Philippines in an underground bunker that is about to fall to the Japanese.Â After they are taken, the nurses are kept in a prisoner-of-war camp and used as propaganda while enduring starvation and disease.Â
The author uses these stories to highlight the role of women in wars.Â They were considered to not be real soldiers because in theory they didn’t get near the front lines.Â They made difficult choices to stay with wounded soldiers even when it jeopardized their own safety.Â They were disrespected when they came home because they were “only nurses.”
This book doesn’t hold back on the details of what these women went through.Â The fear of being left behind and the horrors of being captured are described in detail.Â
The ending of the book is not as strong as the rest.Â There is a bit of romance tacked on that I didn’t think fit with the rest of the book.
I would recommend this book for people interested in World War II stories and stories about women’s history.Â
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Thursday, October 5th: Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, October 6th: West Metro Mommy
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Tuesday, October 10th: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, October 11th: Life By Kristen
Thursday, October 12th: Based on a True Story
Friday, October 13th: Literary Quicksand
Monday, October 16th: Into the Hall of Books
Tuesday, October 17th: Sara the Introvert
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