The Fire By Night
by Teresa Messineo
Publisher: William Morrow
Page Count: 320
Release Date: January 17, 2017
Format: ARC Trade Paperback
How got: LibraryThing giveaway ARC
First attention getter:synopsis
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.
Star Rating - 4
Not holding back when it comes to the hard descriptions of war, this debut author has created a book worthy of losing a few hours in. Be prepared to ignore daily life and the need for sleep while reading this. There are a few issues holding this book back from true perfection, yet overall the book is in engrossing read.
I love how the author wasn't afraid to explore the truth about war, especially the harshness entailed with World War II. From the blood and pus of army medical tents to the starvation of Japanese internment camps in the Philippines, the author explores the true grit needed to survive such events. I also love how the author didn't let her characters escape such circumstances without some effect. Life decisions and goals grow and change as the girls experience pain and tragedy.
Of the two girl’s storyline, I enjoyed Jo the most. This might have been, in part, because more time is spent on her story; she is the more developed of the two. The lengths she goes to protect the men under her care and provide for them while stuck behind enemy lines shows true grit and survival instinct. She demonstrates the true heroism of the Army nurse during World War II. I found myself captivated by her story and by Jo herself. I loved how the author explored Jo’s PTSD as well; it’s refreshing to see an author explore how it affected the women in war as well as the men.
Kay's story wasn't as engrossing for me, which is odd given the circumstances of her story. She doesn't face less horrors then Jo; yet, I found myself more intrigued by the other girl. What we got, though, of Kay’s story did make for a fascinating tale. She faces the invasion of the Philippines and the tragedy of Japanese internment camps with the other Allies stuck behind Japanese lines. The few chapters we got of her (so short!) were packed with emotional turbulence and pain. Again, I love that the author showed the impact the events had on Kay's personality and outlook on life. She is forever changed by her experiences in World War II’s South Pacific theater.
Beyond the unevenness of story balance between our two women, the only other issue I have is the unexpected scene shifts the author makes. Sometimes happening even mid paragraph, the author will jump locations and even timelines with no warning to the reader. I feel the author was trying to go for flashbacks. But the absolute no warning that we're going to shift tales threw me from the narrative more than once. A subtle break, more space between paragraphs or a small paragraph break bar or something would've been appreciated. Maybe this is a personal thing. All the reviews I've read of this book don't mention this aspect at all; maybe it's just me.
Despite those few small issues, I found the story a worthy addition to the body of World War II historical fiction out there. The reader is drawn into the story of army nurses who face the same dangers and pain as the soldiers yet were rarely given the respect of the same. Our two girls grow incredibly, maturing and changing as they face tragedy after tragedy. The high emotional tone of the book draws you into their story and makes you root for them, chapter by chapter. Even though I was thrown from the narrative now and then by those ambushing breaks, I still devoured this book and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys World War II historical fiction.
Note: Book received for free from the publisher via a LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review.