By Teresa Messineo
William Morrow, 2017, 306 pages, Historical Fiction
In war-torn France, Jo McMahon 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.
Half a world away, 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. 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.
This book is a great homage to the work and dedication of the nurses who were part of the war effort during World War II. One thing that struck me was just how different these women’s experiences were, but in both cases, just how much these women had to endure. And when it was all over, they were largely unrecognized for their service.
The story stays pretty evenly focused on both plot lines, switching between Jo and Kay’s point of view with each chapter. To help convey the confusion of war, the story also jumps back and forth through time, filling out backstories and explaining the desolation of Jo and Kay’s respective situations gradually.
While there are a lot of stories about World War II, Messineo has found a great way to tell a story that hasn’t really been told before.