Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

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.


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. 

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