About The Fire By Night• 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 MessineoTeresa 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.
Wow, this book is a page-turner! Two women who are very unlikely friends bond while in nursing school in New York City. Their friendship becomes unbreakable when they join forces to defeat a lecherous doctor. Once war breaks out in Europe, they are trained to become army nurses. Kay travels to the Pacific and is soon right in the middle of the Pacific Theater before becoming a prisoner of war in a Japanese camp. Jo begins her service in the Mediterranean/North African Theater before she's transferred to the western front of the European Theater. Teresa Messineo's extensive research is evident: Her descriptions of the nurses' lives and service are extensive and colorful. I was particularly impressed with the mundane details of life in a surgical tent and the descriptions of the various wounds and surgeries these women treated and endured. This book is not for the squeamish. Honestly Messineo's detail rivals that of Diana Gabaldon in her Outander series. Her fearless descriptions of wounds and the squalid conditions in POW camps might be a little tedious to some readers, but I appreciate them.
I think that Jo's character is a bit more developed than Kay's, and I enjoyed Jo's story more. Both are brave and strong, and their faith and friendship sustains them during their darkest hours. I wish more of their correspondence before, during, and after the war had been shared in the novel (one of my few criticisms of the book). If you enjoy World War II historical fiction and stories about empowered women, then you will love The Fire By Night. It isn't that long, but you might find yourself rereading some of the sections when the nurses aren't lucid due to fever or starvation. This book would make a great book club selection, and I plan to recommend it to mine.
Disclosure: I received an advanced reader's copy of The Fire By Night from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Until next time...