Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve always been interested in WWII stories. I don’t know what it is about that time period, but I’m always fascinated. Maybe it’s because my grandparents were alive during that time, so it feels like ancient history (to me) and yet it’s still close enough to be in some people’s living memory. Also, some of the stories are just bone chilling and awful and I can’t imagine how anyone survived it. Maybe I’m so fascinated because it’s like a study in the strength of human spirit.
Teresa Messineo’s The Fire By Night is definitely a Don’t Miss Book if you are as fascinated by the WWII era as I am. It tells the stories of two nurses: Jo, at the front in France and Kay, a POW at a Japanese camp in Manila. It’s truly a story that shows just how strong women can be. Many war stories focus on the male soldiers and gloss over the fact that the nurses were just as entrenched in the war effort. They might not have been holding a gun and running at the enemy line, but they were seeing the horrific side effects of war and trying to put those men back together.
The Fire By Night showed the effects of war on the nurses in a way I’d never read before. They have PTSD, they’re starved, they’re trying to heal, and they’re trying to survive. They’re resilient and in pain, but they will go on because they have no other choice but to live for the millions who have died during the war.
It’s obvious that Messineo did her research while she was writing this book. The details feel so real (sometimes too real) but that only makes the stories better, of course.
The Fire By Night is raw, brutal, and doesn’t hold back. There were several nights when I read this before bed and I didn’t want to put it down. Be warned that you’ll want to devour this book in one sitting.
The only thing I wish was different was to see a reunion between Jo and Kay because they had gone through so much. I would’ve love to see them reunite after so long apart and after so much happened to them on opposite sides of the world.
• Paperback: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (October 3, 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 Messineo
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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