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The Fire by Night: A Novel

The Fire by Night: A Novel

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The Fire by Night: A Novel

4/5 (20 valoraciones)
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Jan 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.

Jan 17, 2017

Sobre el autor

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.

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The Fire by Night - Teresa Messineo


To Sister Jonathan Moyles, SCC,

for giving me a second chance


The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.




Title Page




1. Jo McMahon

2. Kay Elliott

3. Jo McMahon

4. Kay Elliott

5. Jo McMahon

6. Kay Elliott

7. Jo McMahon

8. Kay Elliott

9. Jo McMahon

10. Kay Elliott

11. Jo McMahon

12. Kay Elliott


13. Jo McMahon

14. Kay Elliott

15. Jo McMahon

16. Kay Elliott


P.S. Insights, Interviews & More . . .*

About the Author

About the Book



About the Publisher



Jo McMahon

Spring 1945, The Western Front

The main problem was her hands. They were raw and cracked and bleeding, and she couldn’t get them to heal. A shell exploded outside the tent—somebody screamed and somebody laughed and someone else just said fuck. Jo steadied the rickety supply rack in front of her, pressing her body against the shifting white boxes, pushing the brown glass bottles back into place with her thigh. The generator made a grinding noise as the lights flickered, went out, came back on. Her hands felt along the highest shelf, searching for a stray box of penicillin someone might have left behind in the initial rush to pack up, when the order to pull out had first come down. Her hands moved deftly, knowing exactly what they were searching for, by touch, and she found herself looking at them abstractedly, as if they were someone else’s entirely, hands belonging to a brave and noble heroine in a novel or movie; a woman whose hands might be ugly, but whose face would be lit by an ethereal light; a person she could feel sorry for and admire at the same time; someone she could leave in the theater or shut up in a book and never have to think of again. She would have to do something about her hands.

It was the surgeries that did it, really. Washing up in the freezing water basin, the caustic soap eating into open fissures; the thick brown gloves ripping off what was left of her knuckles when she tore them off, hurriedly, in between patients. But there was nothing for it, no way around it that she could see; she just couldn’t figure this one out. Her aching fingers closed upon the elusive box, and she wheeled around just as a second explosion went off, this time on her bad side, where her eardrum had been punctured when the Newfoundland went down. She lost her footing, hitting the cold ground of the tent hard. She stuffed the medicine into the pocket of her six-fly pants—men’s pants, with their buttons on the wrong side—then stopped for a moment to tie her shoe, thinking boots would have been nice for the nurses, but still no match for the mud as this, the coldest European winter on record, slowly thawed into an increasingly impassable mess. Two more shells went off, not as close as the last, but still, she noted absently, much too close—closer even than Anzio, and there the shells had been right on top of them it seemed, the shrapnel flying through the ineffectual canvas of the medical tents, killing surgeons where they stood, the orderlies removing their warm bodies and popping helmets onto the heads of the remaining doctors and nurses who carried on where they had left off.

Here, on this frigid night, the lines would have changed again, too quickly; they would be right up against the fighting, the enemy pushing through the center unexpectedly, perhaps creating a new front, one they were near, or at, or even in front of. They were never supposed to be this close to the action, that’s what they had been told during training—yet here they were, again. Jo remembered the time their truck had been commandeered and another promised to pick them up. And how the nurses had waited patiently beside that little chicken coop in southern Italy, resting their tired backs against its sun-drenched, whitewashed warmth—until hours later, after the hens had reluctantly gone in to roost, the girls had seen the first U.S. scouts crawling cautiously toward them through the weeds. The men had asked what they were doing there: if they, the scouts, were the very front of the front line, what the hell were the nurses? Or again, that time they had been in Tunisia, waiting for a truck to move out the last of the wounded, watching the women and children run along the dirt road or perch precariously on their camels forced into an unwilling trot. The American MPs, bringing up the rear on their motorcycles, had yelled at the girls, demanding if they knew there were only ten miles between them and the German tanks and not a blessed thing in between. But they could not leave their men.

How much we got left? someone yelled outside in the rain, slamming the door of an idling truck. How long can it last? Longer than I can last, Jo thought wearily. Longer than any of us can last. The propaganda leaflets dropped by the Germans that the boys picked up showed exhausted American POWs, carefully carving tally marks into cell walls, keeping track of the date—1955. Another ten years. Jo smiled wryly at the Axis cartoonist’s optimism. She’d be lucky to make it another ten months. She was just shy of her twenty-sixth birthday, and already her hair was streaked with iron gray and she had lost two teeth due to malnutrition. Queenie had told the captain she didn’t mind when their molars fell out, but when her girls (Queenie always referred to the nurses in her charge as her girls, and they were her girls, heart and soul) started losing front teeth too, well, then, even she had to say something about it. And they had gotten a few more C rations after that.

Outside, someone was yelling retreat! in a voice too high and too shrill for a man’s; he sounded more like a terrified schoolgirl than a soldier. Fall back, retreat! he screamed again, as if anyone needed encouragement, as if everyone wasn’t already running, already jostling, already scared. Easy enough for you, Jo thought listlessly, hearing the engines turning over and the men cursing at each other in their eagerness to pull out, their footsteps sounding loudly in the sucking mud. Just turn around and run, kid. And as she said it aloud she suddenly felt incredibly seasoned and incredibly jaded and, above all else, incredibly tired. I’ve got a whole hospital to move first.

It hadn’t always been this way. She hadn’t always been this way. There was a time when her hands had been lovely—when all of her had been lovely, all of her had been whole. She had been young then, and had had curves—never enough curves, she had thought then, but good God, compared to the hard angles and bones she was now, she’d been a regular Rita Hayworth. Her skin had been smooth, her flesh firm and full—her tightly coiled chestnut hair with a luster that betrayed her Irish father; a brown streak running through the blue of her left eye where her Italian mother always said she could see herself in her daughter. Giuseppina Fortunata Jo McMahon. What a conglomerate she had felt, growing up in Brooklyn, where people identified so fiercely with their ethnicities. To be not fully one or the other but, somehow, both. To pray to both Saint Patrick and Saint Gennaro. To eat both lasagna and corned beef and cabbage. But after nearly four years of field kitchens and alphabet rations, she couldn’t think about real food. Not now. She couldn’t bear it.

Jo walked into the last standing medical tent, the others having been arduously emptied and packed, dripping wet, onto the trucks that had already left. After hours of loading, now only half a dozen patients remained, their stretchers laid atop sawhorses, waiting to be transported farther back. How she and the other young nurses had memorized the transport chain when they first volunteered for the Army Corps! Front line. Aid man. Collection station. Clearing station. Field hospital. Evacuation hospital. General hospital. Safety. No female officers to serve closer to the front than field hospital, under any conditions. Jo remembered that this last clause had been underlined in their manuals, that the instructor had emphasized it, as if something like that was indecent, as if it could be guaranteed—as if war wasn’t one step removed from chaos, as if she, serving in a field hospital, wasn’t really at the front line right now. She emptied several tablets from the brown cardboard box into her hand, reading without reading for the thousandth time, PENICILLIN G, 250,000 UNITS, CHAS. PFIZER & CO. INC., N.Y., N.Y., remembering a time when she hadn’t known the abbreviation for Charles and had wondered why some mother back home would have ever named her baby Chas. She lifted the head of one of the conscious patients—conscious, if delirious—some poor Scot, in a kilt no less, incongruous among all the GIs. Here, try to swallow, soldier, she said, lifting her canteen to his mouth. He tried to fight her, waving his hands ineffectually and cursing at phantoms standing somewhere behind her in a language all his own. But the typhus was too far gone—not far enough advanced for the dreaded seizures, but far enough for the fever to have sapped him of his strength, of his will, of his right mind. She got the antibiotic down.

Is there room on the truck for this one? she asked the orderlies, who were dismantling the field X-ray machine in a corner of the tent. One of the hinges was stuck, and as they put their weight to it the table collapsed suddenly under their combined efforts, breaking off one of its legs. None of them answered her.

Not on this truck, sweetpea. But we’ll get him on the next one for sure.

And there was Queenie.

When Queenie walked into the tent from the cold and the rain and the muck outside, rubbing her frozen hands together, she managed to bring summer and honeysuckle and the smell of home cooking along with her. She was tiny—petite, she always corrected—wearing the smallest men’s regulation trousers, which she had taken in and taken in again and still had to wear cuffed. Her hair was, as usual, wrapped up in a clean white towel, under which one could imagine it still black and shiny as it once had been, instead of peppered with white. But Hollywood could have made a fortune casting Queenie as the original girl-next-door-buy-war-bonds-today-tie-a-yellow-ribbon-round-her sweetheart. Everyone loved Queenie—men and women alike—for her quick laugh, her moxie, her indomitable spirit. Queenie defied description. On the one hand, she could drink—really drink, which was amazing, given her size—and curse as well as the men, and gamble—she had laughed and laughed when she won a black silk negligee playing poker with some French officers in Algiers. (She had given the beautiful, useless thing to Jo, who, fresh to the war and still imbued with social mores herself, had been embarrassed and speechless and secretly delighted by it all.) But if Queenie had a worldly side, this same nurse had also stood with one doctor through seventy-two hours of surgery—seventy-two hours—when all other medical personnel had been injured or killed. Two hundred litters had been lined up outside the tent, and they got to them all, no coffee break. They had both received the Silver Star, but Queenie always said afterwards that she didn’t deserve it. No false modesty—she honestly didn’t believe she had done anything special. She was, in her own words, just doing my job. And that too was Regina Carroll, whose first name had been, by now, all but usurped by her regal moniker. To the boys, she was their kid sister, the girl next door, the first girl they had ever kissed, all rolled into one. The person they were fighting the war for. Even now, with hell raining down on them again, Jo looked at Queenie and knew the war hadn’t touched her, not underneath, not really; it hadn’t gotten to her like it had gotten to everybody else, like it had gotten to Jo. Queenie didn’t have to put up a shell to protect herself, to survive. She was still what they once had been: love and hope for dying boys. What all the girls had set out to become, ages ago, when they had first crossed the Atlantic in those rolling titans, heading for the European theater of war, laughing and singing along the way as if it was going to be the best goddamned lawn party of all time.

One of the litters was half in, half out of an ambulance that had backed all the way up to the tent flap because of the rain. The orderlies paused to get their grip on the slippery wood of the handles just as the patient started flailing his arms, eyes wild, making a noise like a gagged hero in a gangster movie. In a second, Queenie was there, snatching up a wire-cutter that had been hooked to his stretcher just as vomit shot through the man’s nostrils, his mouth still tightly shut. The man was choking now, and crying, and panicking; Jo could see the whites of his eyes from across the tent. And Queenie kept smiling and talking to him nonstop.

Poor baby, hold on there now, soldier, just a minute, sweetheart, all the time deftly cutting the wires the surgeons had so recently clamped into place to set his broken jaw. There you go now, you can breathe again, it’s just the nasty anesthesia makes you so sick. I know, go ahead, baby, take a breath, they’ll fix you up again at Evac. Now don’t worry about a thing, you’re all right now, honey, it won’t hurt for more than a second. God, Jo thought, not hurt? What does it feel like to have your face shattered, then operated on, then barbwired shut? But Queenie was true to her word, pulling out a quarter-grain morphine syrette, ignoring its general warning, MAY BE HABIT-FORMING, as well as its less equivocal label, POISON. After injecting the soldier, she pinned the used needle to the man’s bloodied collar; somewhere along the way, should he make it, someone would at least know what he had had.

And then she kissed him.

Just before they lifted him into the ambulance (the exhaust fumes were filling the tent, Jo felt sick), Queenie kissed him. The blood and the vomit, the stench of fear and death, and she kissed him.

And every person in that tent, who hadn’t even known they were watching, stopped watching, envious of the dying man whose eyes were no longer scared, disgusted with themselves for what they had become, for how little they cared anymore, for how tired they were, for how much they hurt, for how cold and hungry and filthy they felt, inside and out, with a kind of filth no water could wash away. They knew they hadn’t held a hand, let alone kissed someone, since they had stopped being humans themselves; their world was now one of survival, an animal world of biting and ripping and tearing and, occasionally, licking each other’s wounds. Sure, they might patch and bandage and send men farther back along the chain to be patched and bandaged again, but they, the healers, could no longer heal because they could not think and they could not feel and they could not remember when they had last thought or felt anything other than that they themselves were animals, hunted and trapped and cold.

And Queenie had kissed him.

WHEN THE COMMAND comes to fall back, it takes an infantryman less than ten seconds to simply turn around—and run. But not military nurses, whose only creed, whose one, unbreakable rule, is never to leave their patients. Never. So begins the long task of finishing the surgeries already in progress; stabilizing those just coming into the post-op tent; giving plasma, or whole blood when available; lifting the heavy orthopedics with their colossal casts, arms and legs immobilized by a hundred pounds of plaster. The shock patients with their thready pulses; the boys with battle fatigue, whimpering and taking cover under their cots, thinking themselves still in the field; the deaf, the maimed, and the blind, their heads carefully wrapped and bandaged, their tentative fingers reaching out in front of them, seared and melted together from clawing their way out of burning tanks. All these men had to be moved into an endless convoy of trucks and ambulances that could only hold so many and only go so fast in the muddy ruts of what had once been a road. Jo remembered one time when they had been trying to move out, early on, before any of them knew anything, and she and a group of nurses had sewn together sheets to form an enormous cross to mark the field where the injured lay awaiting transport, smugly thinking the thin fabric would protect their men from strafing. The commanding officer himself had come up to them, livid, screaming at the naive girls for putting up not a red but a white cross—the symbol for airfield, and a legitimate military target under the Geneva convention.

There were no more white sheets now.

The sound of the shells exploding outside mingled with thunder and it was all one cacophony of death. There had been a time when the girls would wince, or duck, or even jump into foxholes dug right into the dirt of the field hospital floor. But there were no safe places left, not anymore, and they walked around numb, oblivious to death hovering above them, packing up the more critical of their supplies—the scalpels, the clamps, the enormous steam sterilizer that would make everything usable when they set up again somewhere. The ambulance was ready to leave, and the doctors already on board were calling for Queenie.

You can ride up front with me, sweetheart.

Yeah, on my lap.

No thank you, doctors, Queenie replied, her voice saccharine. I’ll take my chances with the Germans first. I’ll be fine in the back with my boys. Come on, Jo.

Jo grabbed her green canvas musette bag—how could everything she owned fit into something the size of a handbag? But it did. Book. Rosary. Some thumbed-through letters from the Pacific. One faded photograph. Curity diapers. A nightshirt. Graying underwear. An extra T-shirt. Two C rations. The absurd negligee. A pen. Jo put on her helmet, the chinstrap long since burned off from years of using the helmet to heat water in for washing. Queenie was already in the back of the truck, instinctively reaching out a comforting hand without even realizing it, when a grating voice near Jo’s ear said, Not so fast, miss.

It was Grandpa.

None of the girls remembered his real name anymore; if they had ever known it, it was just Grandpa now. The nickname originated when they found out he had served in the medical corps during the Great War; they joked, behind his back of course, that he was old enough to have been a doctor in the Civil War as well.

You can stay with me, Miss McMahon. We’ll get the next truck.

Jo sighed. She hadn’t noticed she was the only nurse left in the tent. Of course, she would not—she could not, ever—leave before the last of her patients did, but she would have rather sat through the long wait for the return truck with any of the other surgeons, even the fatherly ones in their forties who bored her kindly with talk of tobacco and fly-fishing back home. Anyone but Grandpa, who rambled on about the Deep South, its nobility and gracious amenities. Maybe, she thought, he really does remember it from antebellum times after all.

I’ll stay, Queenie began, but the truck had already shifted into gear, and besides, two patients were holding on to her, looking at her with such intensity that it seemed she was the only thing rooting them to reality, tethering them to a spinning world.

She’ll be perfectly fine where she is, Miss Carroll, Grandpa snapped irritably, her real name sounding like an insult as he grabbed a chart hanging crookedly off of one of the litters.

I’ll be perfectly fine, Jo mouthed to Queenie, making a face. And Queenie laughed, her smile lighting up the interior of the cold ambulance already smelling of death, and Jo smiled too and made a little salute. And then the truck was pulling away, Queenie bending over one of the men, her hand gently caressing his forehead; then she was lost to them.

Jo took stock of what was left behind, in terms of supplies yet to be loaded—not much really. The X-ray and all but one of the operating tables had finally been collapsed and carried away, most of the medicines and supplies were already gone, except for one or two surgery kits neatly packed into their boxes, propped up against the center tent pole. One generator, still running, remained, as well as one oil-burning stove, now off and cooling before the journey, some lamps used for surgery, and the less important detritus that always littered the tent floor—disinfectant, bedpans, buckets, soap. Grandpa walked over to a chest marked LINEN and proceeded to speak in his most officious voice.

Miss McMahon, it is no secret to me that you and your fellow nurses refer to me—here he spat out the word—as ‘Grandpa,’ a term you use to convey my age and none of the honor one associates with that esteemed position. Well, such being the case—and denying any fatigue on my part—I will oblige you by acting out the part insofar as setting down for a spell.

And with that, he sat down stiffly. Jo noticed for the first time how pale and drawn the man looked, more so than he had in Italy, or Sicily, or North Africa before that. He had always seemed aged to the nurses, who were all just over twenty themselves. But this last push through France, closing in now on Germany itself, had been too much for him. Jo noted that his lips were too white, his brows too closely knit together. He looked like an old man who had just realized, suddenly, and with considerable annoyance, that he was in fact old.

Yes, doctor, Jo murmured demurely, moving off to check on the remaining patients—and to give the doctor some space. The tent flap suddenly opened, and a man with startlingly blue eyes pushed his way in.

You still in here? You need to move out, he said, breathlessly, dripping wet.

We’re almost ready, Captain, Jo replied to the stranger, her eyes resting for a second on his shoulder—not one of their corps.

Almost isn’t good enough, bitch.

Jo felt as if she had been slapped in the face. Nearly four years of war and how many thousands of brutal deaths later, this breach of courtesy still managed to shock Jo, more than the concussions outside that were shaking the tent. Jo and her fellow nurses were used to working side by side with surgeons and doctors who considered them almost as colleagues, allowing them to make independent decisions and perform difficult procedures no nurse would ever be permitted to do stateside. (Jo had done her first spinal tap with shaking hands, but had done one earlier that day without thinking about it at all.) Even the Germans (to give the devil his due) were respectful, if confused, by the women officers, having no such counterparts in their own armies. (Their Krankenschwesters held no rank and, with their heavy, traditional dresses, were regarded by the men more as nuns than as nurses.) When American nurses were taken as prisoners of war, enemy officers would awkwardly ask the captured women for their word of honor that they would not attempt escape; then, in lieu of imprisonment, the Germans requested they wait out the rest of the war serving in orphanages or makeshift civilian hospitals.

And this man had just called her a bitch.

Grandpa struggled to his feet as quickly as his aging joints would allow, his mouth open in outrage.

How—how dare you, sir, he stammered at last.

The captain stepped forward aggressively. What the hell are these men still doing here? You were supposed to be moved out hours ago. I’ve only got a goddamned patrol to hold this area, and you’re gumming up the works with your ambulances blocking the roads and drawing fire.

Jo recovered from her momentary shock, the thick shell she wove around herself adding yet another layer. She did not know this man, she would never see him again. Their paths were crossing for a second only, and that only by chance; soon she would be back with her medical corps, with the men—the hundreds of men—who needed her. This man, she made up her mind, needed no one. We’re waiting for our truck to return, and then we’ll be out of your way, sir. She added the sir looking level into his eyes, eyes she noted as remarkably beautiful, almost turquoise in color, but cold and lifeless and blank, as if nothing, not even light, could penetrate them.

Then you wait in the dark, sweetheart, he said, ripping out the generator cord. Everything went dark; Jo heard him fumbling for a second, and then the motor itself sputtered out, as if in protest. In a flash of lightning Jo could see the silhouette of the captain as he passed through the tent flap; then all was darkness. There was an explosion, but much farther away this time, to the south of them, maybe half a mile down the road, followed by two more, much quieter.

Of all the, the— Grandpa was still stuttering, incredulous. Then, in a lower voice, a voice Jo had never heard him use before, almost a whisper: You all right?

Don’t be silly, of course I’m all right, Jo replied glibly, too glibly, feeling her way in the darkness for the nearest stretcher. Silly, she repeated again. But it hadn’t been silly at all.

I’m sorry, soldier, she addressed the blackness in front of her, still feeling for the stretcher in the dark. All the tent flaps had already been tightly shut to prevent light escaping; the ambulances would have been driving without headlights, as always; both precautions making the captain’s behavior seem even more senseless and—No, I won’t think of him anymore, he’s gone. But we seem to have to make shift in the dark here for a little while. She tried to force cheerfulness into her voice, as Queenie would have done, and failed. Would you mind telling me which one you are?

A cockney voice came through the darkness, its edges seeming to curl up in a sympathetic smile. Jonesy, miss. I’m not as bad off as some of these here other ones. Just the bad leg, if you remember, miss.

Jo smiled. The English patient. A Montgomery, the boys always called them. Now she remembered, broken leg; a heavy cast would be dangling on a wire in front of her somewhere. Whether or not it was just habit, his repetition of miss had sounded almost reverential, as if

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  • (5/5)
    Kay Elliot and Josephine McMahon are two close friends, both talented nurses. In 1943 they bravely decide to sign up for the war effort and undergo medical training that will prepare them for the intense miasma that will engulf them as World War II ignites and takes the world by storm. After completion of their training, Kay is shipped out to serve in the Philippines and Jo to the Western Front of France. The author alternates their stories from the malaria sweating, insect infested jungles of Corregidor, where Kay is trapped inside an underground tunnel serving as a hospital, to the freezing combat trenches in France where Jo is struggling to survive the coldest winter Europe had ever seen while attempting to keep the many injured and dying frozen soldiers alive. Teresa Messineo goes off the Richter scale with Pulitzer Prize-like winning writing so intense and engrossing that you will hear the bombs dropping, the soldiers screaming, and the emotional anguish of nurses going above and beyond the call of duty. This well researched novel is a true-to-life fictional portrayal of what our American nurses endured during the second World War. Taking the reader from before the war to after, I found this novel totally unputdownable! Although there have been literally hundreds of World War II novels flooding the fictional market over the last few years, Teresa Messineo’s debut novel is a cut above the rest. For me this is the first book about the war that took me right into the combat zones and trenches where I truly felt the horrors and brutality and heard the bullets whizzing over my head. Messineo pulls no punches and tells it like it really was. Bloody, starving, terrified soldiers, doctors, and nurses, battling through the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, capture and imprisonment from the Japanese, land mines, flying bullets, and once in a while love amidst the battlefield that holds promises of forever when peace once again reigns.I grant this literary gem 4.5 stars. Why not 5 you ask? My opinion is that the story needed a little more balance of darkness and light. There was an incredible amount of darkness, which of course is an accurate way of truly telling a war story if you want readers to feel that they were right there with the characters enduring moment-to-moment peril , but a little hope, a little more of some stars on the horizon of love and a happy ending for the future would have made this literary jewel shine a little brighter. Other than that BRAVO and standing ovation for the author’s first novel!
  • (3/5)
    I read this for a bookclub at work and for a novel that I wasn't really interested in, I flew through it. It was very readable and quite interesting. It felt like a fresh take on a WW2 historical fiction novel- following the heroic American nurses who went to war to help save the soldiers of their country. I really enjoyed both perspectives - Jo's and Kay's. The descriptions were very realistic and detailed and the horrors of war described felt so authentic. You could tell that the author thoroughly researched her work.

    The one thing that I felt was a little forced was the romance between Jo and one of her patients..it just kind of happened and was inserted like an afterthought - even though the end of the novel focuses on it. I actually wish the end focused more on Jo and Kay's friendship.

    Overall, I quite enjoyed this - 3/5 stars.
  • (5/5)
    The Fire by Night by Teresa MessineoEye opening; heartbreaking; HIGHLY recommended This book really opened my eyes to the dedication, devotion, and heroism that Army nurses displayed during WWII. This book creates a captivating story of two Army nurses, friends but stationed in different parts of world; one in Germany and the other in the Philippines. Lack of supplies, food and weather conditions made their jobs more difficult and sometimes unbearable. The book is so well written I often felt their pain like I was right there with them. I will not forget this book for a very long time. I highly recommend it.
  • (4/5)
    The story of two nurses in which World War II changes their lives in irrevocable ways. Both serve as military nurses, one in France and the other in the Pacific. Jo and Kay meet in nursing school and are dreaming of adventure. I enjoyed this book, especially loved both Jo and Kay; loved that they were strong women.
  • (5/5)
  • (5/5)
    Jo McMahon and Kay Elliott are friends and nurses in New York City. When the call goes out for nurses to serve in the war, Jo and Kay enthusiastically sign up. Jo and Kay are sent to opposite fronts. Kay begins her service basking on the beaches of Hawaii only to have the reality of war come crashing down on her quickly. Captured by the Japanese and transferred to an internment camp in Malinta, Kit has only begun to scratch the surface of the horrors of War. Jo eventually ends up in France, her field hospital is set up to transfer, but the Doctor keeps her back with six patients who don't fit on the transport van. However, the transport van never comes back for them. Eventually running out of supplies and hope, Jo does her best to keep her soldiers alive until help arrives. Both women try to think of happier times in their friendship to keep themselves going. Powerful, captivating, raw and real, I could not tear my eyes away from Jo and Kit's stories. I of course knew that women did much more in the War than they were ever given credit for, but Jo and Kit's stories are just two small examples of how much the heroic nurses accomplished. I was astounded by Jo's courage, strength and skill in keeping her six soldiers alive while danger loomed constantly around her as well as Kit's will to survive the dark, festering internment camp where people were constantly dying of starvation. The alternating story lines between Jo and Kit kept me rapidly turning pages to see where their stories would lead. I enjoyed that Kit and Jo were very much their own person and chose different paths. Their experiences also showed the real effects of war. I was constantly amazed by how much I didn't know about women's roles during World War II, especially the nurses who were captured in the Japanese internment camp and how they were forbidden to talk about their experience. Deemed the 'Angels of Bataan' these are the women who should be our heroes. As Kit says "if the world of men ever tears itself apart again, it will take an army of nurses to put it back together." Written with passion and rich historical detail, this is a story I will never forget. This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
  • (4/5)
    In a war the size of WWII, a war that threatened to swallow the entire world whole, there are endless stories to tell about it. There are traditional war stories about the soldiers and the generals. There are stories about the civilians and the way that their cities and lives exploded while the world was seemingly self-destructing. And there are the stories of the non-combatants like the field medics, the surgeons, and the nurses who enlisted and did the terrible, necessary jobs that war demands, the people whose stories are so often untold. Teresa Messineo's debut novel tells the story of two enlisted nurses, in two different theaters of this agonizing war as they struggle to survive themselves while still ministering to others. It is a powerful, visceral, and crucial tale to tell.Jo McMahon is an Italian-Irish girl from the Bronx who enlisted after she finished nursing school. As the novel opens on the European theater, she is preparing to move out with the rest of the staff and patients in her hospital unit due to the shifting front line. It turns out she has to remain behind with six injured men and an elderly doctor whose grasp on reality is questionable when there proves to be no room in the caravan for all of them, but it should only be a short wait until the trucks return. When the trucks don't come back, Jo and the men are stranded, alone and cut off from the rest of the hospital unit. She vows to keep the men alive even in the face of ongoing tragedy, increasing danger, diminishing food supplies, and almost constant, if numbing, terror. Meanwhile, her best friend from nursing school, Kay Elliott, a small town Midwestern girl, has been posted to the Pacific where the rounds of parties and fun stopped abruptly with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With the war not going well, Kay, her fellow nurses, and patients have taken shelter in the dark and claustrophobic Malinta Tunnel, a place that cannot hold out in the face of the advancing Japanese. and so she ends up in a POW camp, starving and witnessing the appalling atrocities during and after the Bataan Death March but still determined to serve others in her capacity as a nurse.Both Jo and Kay faced huge losses personally because of the war but their dedication to their calling and those who depended on them was unflagging, even if it was done with damaged and aching hearts. The narration alternates between Jo's and Kay's experiences, detailing the overwhelming horrors of the war, showing the difficult and unthinking bravery that the women showed, and chronicling the suffering and loss that today we almost cannot imagine. Messineo has thoroughly researched life for combat nurses in WWII and has brought this life into stark detail on the page. The characters of Jo and Kay are both broken and heroic. As the war winds down and finally ends, the immediacy of the novel tapers off but it still shows, through Jo and Kay, the lingering effects of having been to war and witnessed inhumanity on a grand scale and also showcases what life outside of the intensity and survivalist mode that war necessitates looks like, giving the ending a very different tone than the first three quarters of the novel. Jo and Kay's stories only overlap very minimally, generally in flashbacks to their time in nursing school, so the novel is not so much a novel of friendship as it is of love and loss, bravery, and amazing endurance. Fans of WWII novels, those who appreciate strong but imperfect female characters, and those who enjoy gritty historical fiction will find this to be well worth the read.
  • (4/5)
    FIRE BY NIGHT is the compelling story of two American nurses in WWII written by Teresa Messineo.Jo McMahon is serving in France, having already been through Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy. Her hospital unit is ordered to evacuated but there are too many patients to fit in the convoy, so Jo, a doctor and six very ill patients are left behind for "the next truck".Kay Elliott is serving on Corregidor and stays behind with doctors and fifty nurses when the US Navy leaves. As the story begins they are hiding from the Japanese in tunnels, but Corregidor is surrendered and Kay is transported to the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila.Each of the women goes through her own version of hell on earth. Their story is told through alternating chapters. Jo's story seems to dominate, but Kay's story is no less compelling.The book is divided into two sections - wartime and peacetime. The wartime section is the main story and Jo's part in both sections tends to dominate. This uneven telling seems to me to be the major shortcoming of the book.After what both of them go through during the war, what they go through afterwards should have been an equal story. Also, Jo's story, especially during peacetime, threatens to turn the story into a "romance" novel.My feeling about the book are coloured by the fact that many great stories have told the horrors of war, over and over again, and it seems to make no difference. We had a "war to end all wars" and look how well we learned that lesson. We blithely consider what we ask our military to go through is an acceptable cost of war. But perhaps a more thorough telling of the struggles to regain a "normal" life could motivate us to do more for our veterans and just possible reconsider the so-called "glories of war".
  • (5/5)
    An excellent book. Well researched historical fiction about the experiences of two nurses in WWII. Each chapter moves from one to the other: Jo in Europe and Kay in Manilla. At first I was trying to figure out how to match the time frames, as the date of each chapter's scenario is printed at the chapter heading. Then I realized we aren't meant to see the chapters as happening at the same time, just correlate the thoughts and trials each was going thru, so the dates are only relevant if you want to match the chapter with real history.Jo and Kay were fully developed characters, and it was easy to get involved in their lives...altho "easy" isn't a word usually used for fear/pain/starvation and all the other difficulties. I am so impressed by the courage and determination to be the best nurse they could be under the circumstances.Wonder why you never heard much about these nurses? They were made to sign papers not to mention anything until 2005 or they would lose their veteran's benefits. My mother joined the Army Nurse Cadet Corps to get her nurse's training, but the war ended before her graduation so she wasn't called on to serve. Her older sister, however, did serve. I will have to see if she is able to share anything about that time (her Alzheimer's makes communication difficult).This review is of a book I received free thru Early Reviewers.
  • (4/5)
    This book is told in alternating viewpoints of two wartime nurses, one serving in Europe and one in the Pacific during World War II. While they had trained together before the war, Kay and Jo ended up on opposite sides of the world during the war, but they face similar struggles to maintain their spirit as war threatens to destroy their lives and loved ones. I found the end of this book a little unsatisfying, but it is a decent read in the WWII historical fiction genre.
  • (3/5)
    NOTE: This review contains spoilers, so if you haven't read it yet, skip this review!I was really torn about whether or not I liked this book. No, that's not quite right. I did LIKE it, but my enjoyment of it went up and down. At one point I would have rated it a 1, then a few pages later I would have given it a 5. There was some beautiful writing, followed by some naive, childish writing, and I became irritated by all of the overly long sentences. They work well when showing a character's mental state, or in an action sequence, but they were WAY overused in normal sequences.The beginning of the novel was far too depressing, with no break. Yes, I know both women were dealing with some horrendous circumstances, but the writer desperately needed to find a way to break up these sequences with something lighter. I thought she was trying to do this with her flashbacks to how Jo and Kay met, but even the flashbacks were depressing! This got to be so bad I almost stopped reading, and had to force myself not to skim.This was also obviously written by someone who has not been to war. It was surprisingly naive in some places.I felt the sequence where Jo operated on the major (appendix) was extremely well done. You could tell the author had done her research on techniques, tools, etc., but the confrontation afterwards between Jo and Captain Clark was unrealistic and a bit childish. This was one of several places in which the characters didn't act and react like real human beings.There were also several places where the author tried too hard to be profound, which actually hurt the impact of the scene and turned the drama into melodrama. She should have let the circumstances speak for themselves without applying literary devices.In contrast, the scene where the Army Ranger died in Jo's arms was very powerful and extremely well written.The flashback to the abusive doctor at the hospital where Jo and Kay worked was naive and unrealistic. The abusive doctor was poorly conceived and amateurishly drawn, a caricature of a bad guy, and their "victory" over him was melodramatic and VERY unrealistic.I especially had a problem with the scene where the German soldier kissed Jo. Even if you could accept the soldier kissing her, her kissing him back (no matter what mental state she was in) was not only unrealistic, it smacked of a bad romance novel and was an affront to all of the battle-hardened, courageous army nurses this story is supposedly trying to honor. Quite frankly, our nurses were far too professional to have done something like that, and it would have never, ever happened.Jo saying goodbye to David was very touching and very well written. Overall, I liked all of Jo's patients, and felt like they were handled well.Jo kissing Duncan...NO, NO, NO, another example of a bad romance novel in the midst of a supposedly realistic portrayal of army nurses during war. First of all, given the circumstances, Duncan (even if he was the biggest cad in the world) would have never kissed her. He just saw her pass out, for heaven's sake! And second of all, she would have never, ever let herself be kissed. Very disappointing.The ending where David returns was nicely done, but very predictable. I knew it was coming long before David showed up.Overall, I thought this was a valiant attempt to write a novel about group of women who have never received the honor they deserve. I just wish the novel had been a little more consistently good.
  • (4/5)
    World War II, and two young woman, Kay and Jo, feel the need to do more, to sacrifice forma short time their lives in order to help the fighting soldiers, They join the military, attend nursing school, where they bond and become best friends. At the end of training they are hoping to be assigned to the same base but Jo is assigned to the western front while Kay is assigned to the South Pacific. For a while it looks as if Kay has pulled the ideal assignment, beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, but then Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and both women find themselves in perilous conditions.I found this book to be intense, was very surprised by how much and how much I grew to like these young women, personally invested in their fates. Extremely well written, meticulously researched, the details mentioned that fit the time from morphine in boxes, to Kay's treatment in the camp. The author details her research at books end. Their were parts that made me shiver and parts where I actually got teary eyed, I was definitely emotionally invested. This a book about love, yes, there are two love stories here as well, friendship, sacrifice and commitment. For years women's roles in the war and in other areas has been non existent or sadly lacking at the least. It is refreshing that for the last several years these books, fiction and non are now being written. That women are finally being recognized for the many different parts they played, the danger they willingly put themselves in, and the tole it took. Many after suffered in silence, going through the same suffering PTSD that the returning soldiers did but this was never acknowledged. I applaud the new authors now writing these book featuring women from the Civil War and upwards. ARC from publisher.Publishes Jan, 2017.
  • (5/5)
    THE FIRE BY NIGHT opens with compelling insights into hands, inspiring readers to both examine their own and to search for the skills and challenges that these two nurses faced.Even though there have been many novels of the unbearable endless horrors of front line World War II, the reading does not get easier - it just hurts more because nothing has changed. Too many men (and some women) just want to kill each other to solve their differences, personal and across borders of race, religion, color, culture, and land.Although Jo has a dreamy almost storybook ending, it is welcome that these rare events actually happened.What I missed was a deeper exploration of exactly what happened with Jo's Six Boys > Jonesy, Father Hook, the Major, Billy, James, and David after the War. Yes, we hear about David at the end, but not how he endured.It is still puzzling why Kay had such a hard time being assigned to the Veteran's Hospital.
  • (4/5)
    The book is divided roughly into two sections, and each of the sections alternate between Jo McMahon and Kay Elliot, two pre-war nurse friends who sign up for the romance of the idea of nursing our wounded heroes. In the first section, I found the story of Jo much more compelling, perhaps because, as hard as her life as a nurse in Europe was, it was somehow relatable. Kay's tour of duty took place in the Pacific theatre, and was completely, in every way, out of my ken. The second section, taking place after "peace" came, I found to be more plausible from Kay's point of view. Jo's section was a bit too romantic. I found myself hoping that Messineo wouldn't over-romanticize Kay's experience (spoiler alert: she did not). But I would like to have learned more of that experience!Messineo's writing was actually pretty powerful. In the first section, I found it quite difficult to follow Kay's story until I realized that Kay herself was having a difficult time holding onto reality, herself. In the second section, I understood Jo was going through her own PTSD, but there was a bit too much of the romantic-fiction thrown in. Overall, the two characters' stories were not evenly told. Jo's story was twice the length of Kay's in both sections. I think the story would have been stronger had Kay had more of her story told in the second, and Jo's more curtailed there. Surely Kay deserved some print time over her acclimation to post-war America, and how she envisioned her life to unfold.
  • (4/5)
    “If the world of men ever tears itself apart again, it will take an army of nurses to put it back together.”

    What a powerful and evocative novel. I’ve read my fair share of World War novels about civilians and soldiers, but never about the plight of military nurses. This is a refreshing reading experience on my part because it shows a different side of the war that these military nurses are trying to win. Not all war heroes use guns, and Jo and Kay proved that as they fight through the horrors of war. They may not be at the forefront of the battle, but their sacrifices during the war do not make their experiences any less.

    The novel is not as brutal and as graphic as the other books I’ve read (e.g. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys). I might have found the first half dragging as there are too many musings and flashbacks than “actual encounters”, but it showed raw emotions as soon as it picked up its pace. Jo vows to keep her six patients alive at the Western Front, while Kay tries to survive as a prisoner at War in the Corregidor and Manila. I realized later on that these “musings” on the first part of the novel were essential in connecting to Jo and Kay more as they try to piece their life together. I love how Jo and Kay dealt with their trauma differently, and how there is no right or wrong in “healing”.

    I may have been more affected especially on Kay’s plight at the Santo Tomas internment camp because I went to the university there, and while Kay is a fictional character, I connected to her because I walked the same walls that she and the others did, though at a different era.
  • (4/5)
    I'm old enough to remember a time when the only war related books were either focused on soldiers (men) or the people they left behind (women). It frustrated me that we never heard about the trials and traumas women faced at the front lines. I knew that many women had been at or near the front lines and this book takes us there.

    One of the best things about this book was the honesty. Despite being heros, both women face many awful things and are forced to confront their own weaknesses (one even has to be rescued by another nurse). The author does a really good job of reminding us about the way women were treated (being seen as inferior, having to worry about the risk of rape, etc.), about the fact that even survivors have days (many days) when they just want to give up, and about the awful things some people had to survive.

    I also really appreciated the fact that the author carried her story past the end of the war. It's really important for us to remember that war related trauma doesn't end when the enemies retreat. Both women in this book have to decide if and how they can move on. And, while they both get a happy ending, the author doesn't fall into the trap of letting a man rescue them and carry them off into a romantic sunset. Instead, she shows us that there are more then just fairy tale endings.

    This was a really good book. I had a really hard time putting it down and I'm eager to read more by Messineo.
  • (4/5)
    I tend to approach war stories with some trepidation. Sometimes the graphic descriptions can be overwhelming. Messineo’s story, focusing on two military nurses who find themselves right in the firing lines, give this WWII storyline a fresh angle. For me, Messineo’s story is more about finding the humanity in a sea of violence and inhumanity, than the war itself. It is also a story of the emotional side effects of war and how nurses serving in the war were just as susceptible as the soldiers to suffering shell shock and PTSD. Even though the story has more of an intimate focus, Messineo does not sugar coat the violence of wartime. She depicts the European (France, Italy) and Pacific (Pearl Harbour, Philippines) fronts lucidly and graphically. Messineo relentlessly pushes the intensity as both Jo and Kay try to hold onto their sanity as the nightmare of war surrounds them. Interestingly, even though the chapters flip back and forth between Jo and Kay, the story is written in the third person, giving it more of a steam-of-consciousness feel. This worked well for me as Messineo it helps to give a more even feel to the story. From field hospitals to internment camps, Messineo manages to strike the right balance here. While I was expecting a story with less intensity – some of the descriptions are very powerful! – I ended up really appreciating Messineo’s extensive research and her ability to create such realistic characters in Jo and Kay.
  • (3/5)
    The Fire by Night, Teresa Messineo, author; Kirsten Potter, narratorThis novel explored the experiences of nurses during WWII on the various fronts of the war. It detailed the disrespect often shown to women who were considered inferior to their male counterparts, although they often faced the same danger; it illuminated the effects on them, as well as their patients; it exposed the homophobia that was rampant at that time. It also described the brutality of all the players, the Allied Powers and the Axis Powers, who often carried out unthinkable acts of sadism. Scarred physically and mentally, both the soldiers and the medical personnel, male and female, suffered equally from the effects of the horrors of the war, from the aggressive cruelty of their enemies who neither respected nor upheld the Geneva Conventions. The lucky ones who survived were often assaulted by their memories and the effects of their nightmarish war experiences had lasting effects on their lives, long after the war was over. Highlighting the loss and the danger, the author described the experiences of two friends, Kay and Jo, who were stationed in different theaters of the war, who dealt with different enemies, all of whom, however, were equally brutal and diabolical in their methods. Dedicated to their profession, even in the face of extreme peril, without supplies, proper medicines or medical supplies, faced with extreme shortages of food, they still stayed and performed their duties to the best of their ability, often only able to offer the comfort of their presence. They demonstrated their great courage and did not abandon their posts, their patients or their hospitals. The novel described the desperate love stories that developed during the frantic fog of wartime. Regarding the history and the recording of the battles and their aftermath, the story felt authentic, but when it came to the romantic episodes, it often seemed contrived. Also in the same way as the minds of the weakened nurses seemed to wander, so did the story line, occasionally getting a bit confusing as it moved from place to place and time to time, revealing different aspects of both Kay and Jo’s lives and experiences. Occasionally, it trended to the melodramatic. The narrator performed this heartbreaking story of love and loss, courage and fear, with just the right amount of emotion and expression to hold my interest and to set the stage for each scene appropriately. She accurately portrayed the degradation the women experienced and carefully illuminated their heroism in the face of their fear and the burdens the war and their duty placed upon them, with the tone and emotional expression of her voice.
  • (5/5)
    Warning: This book is not for the squeamish. It leaves the reader raw, scrapped open, burnt, and in awe of the military nurses who stood between their patients and all the powers of Hell, and said, “Not on my watch.”Based on the actual stories of Army nurses, Teresa Messineo gives us two women, Kay and Jo, who forged a friendship in nursing school, a bond stronger than family. They end up on opposite sides of the conflict; Kay, trapped by the Japanese on Bataan, in the Phillipines, and Jo, abandoned in no-man’s-land somewhere in Europe. Each face the demons, the death, the terror of war, each find a strength unheard of inside themselves, each walk out a different person, and yet, find healing, through work, through friendship, through love. There is no sugar-coating or glossing-over the trauma each of them faced. And, having recently read several books about the real-life nurses during World War II, Messineo doesn’t exaggerate what happened on either front. While Kay and Jo are fictional, the horrors they see and live through – those are authentic. It is perhaps this, more than anything else, that make this novel so powerful. Worth reading, to understand that time, to open our eyes to the women who gave so much to serve others, to inspire us to more.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    I read a lot of books about World War II and am especially interested in the nurses who were often in harm's way. This book is one of the best that I have read on nurse's roles, the danger that they were often faced with and the grit and determination they had to have to survive.Jo and Kay met in nursing school and became friends. They both wanted adventure in their lives and they signed for the Army, hoping to go the the same location. Jo was sent to Europe, she wasn't exactly sure where because the enemy lines kept changing and the hospital had to move when the enemy got too close. As the book begins, she has been left behind with six patients while waiting for transport to another area. Kay is sent to the Philippines which is a real paradise for the nurses until Pearl Harbor is attacked and the Japanese troops take over the Philippines. The nurses are sent to an interment camp and are kept in cruel captivity for the remainder of the war.The novel is told by Jo and Kay in alternating chapters. Many times in a book with two characters telling their story, I like one more than the other and skip ahead to read her story. In this book, I loved both Jo and Kay and was extremely interested in both of their struggles to survive the war. . They were both faced with different but equally difficult circumstances and their survival was often in doubt. The author did a tremendous amount of research and it's very apparent in the details of the story.This is a story about the bravery and determination needed be a nurse on the battlefield during a war that changed the world as they knew it and their struggle to come to learn to live and accept their lives after the war was over. Thanks to the author for a copy of this book for a fair and honest review. ·
  • (4/5)
    World War II - Two Nurses joined by profession and friendship then separated by war as they dedicate their service to those on the front lines.This is a well researched story with a compelling narrative. The reader is transported back in time to the front lines of World War II where the unsung heroic nurses patch up and protect their injured and broken charges. It is spoken through the voices of two nursing friends sent into the world in opposite directions while serving our troops on the front lines. Love and romance play minor rolls in their stories but the bravery, valiant efforts and passion for their calling is what drives the narrative. This book celebrates the strength of women against all odds.I am grateful to publisher Harper Collins and Goodreads First Reads for having provided a free Advance Reader Copy of this book. Their generosity however, has not influenced this review - the words of which are mine alone.Synopsis (from book's back cover):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.
  • (5/5)
    Stories about nurses serving during war time has always been an interest to me. This book was very well researched and I can say, I would anything else by this author.This fictionalized account of two nurses, Jo and Kay, was very detailed and realistic. As they wanted adventure in their lives and the war was on, they joined the service hoping to be stationed together. The book is split in two narratives, going back and forth between Jo’s experience in the Europe and Kay in Hawaii and Japan.Both stories were fascinating, gritty and real. Kay’s story is very sad and I wouldn’t have had the stamina or willpower to stay alive in an internment camp. Truly, I would have just done something crazy so the Japanese guards would kill me outright and end my misery. Jo was stationed in Europe and ended up separated from her hospital and fellow nurses and doctors. She was left with 6 patients who could not be moved, the battle lines and fighting going on all around her. This story is about women who go above and beyond with their determination, their dedication to nursing and the harsh conditions they enduring without giving up.The aftermath of these experiences are also detailed as the women try and adjust to nursing in peacetime.
  • (4/5)
    As far as historicals go, this one was top notch. It had an educational story line with deep rooted emotion and a strong focus on faith/hope. It was about two military nurses and their lives during a tragic time. Each one was faced with their own battle, but in the end, it was courage and perseverance that guided them both to safety. To say this was a heavy read is an understatement. At times I became overwhelmed by the slow pace and vivid details, but I learned to appreciate the writing style and ended up really enjoying it. I appreciated the emotion that seeped from the pages and was intrigued by the behind the scenes look at the medical side of war. Not to mention, I found the lusty bits very important as well. If I had to pick, I'd definitely say Jo was my favorite. While both stories were empowering, I found Jo's to be a tad bit more emotional/real-feeling. I felt for Kay having to leave her loved one behind, but once that part passed, I had a hard time fully connecting to her. It didn't break the book for me, but it did push me to skim her parts a bit. All in all, it was a really strong, well written historical fiction. It may not be for everyone, but I recommend it to all readers looking to immerse themselves in an important piece of history.