Friday, October 6, 2017

Book Review: "The Fire By Night" by Teresa Messineo #TheFireByNight #TLCBookTours

The Fire By Night Teresa Messineo
Date Finished: October 4, 2017
Date Published: January 17, 2017
ISBN: 9780062459121
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins Publishers
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Novels about WWII, books about strong women, stories about nursing, character-driven novels.

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. 

My Thoughts:
It's easy to burn yourself out reading novels about World War II.  I do understand the draw of stories set in this time period, but there are just so many of them!  But, even if you don't think you could stomach one more novel from this period, I beg you to give this one a try.

If I had to choose one word to describe this book, that word would be brave.  This is a story of extreme bravery (and anyone who doesn't believe that woman can serve in combat positions, or that they have never served in a combat position, should read this).  We meet Jo and Kay towards the end of the war.  Jo has been essentially abandoned on the Western Front and Kay is on the verge of being captured by the Japanese.  To say that they are in harrowing positions is an understatement, but both women display almost super-human courage in the face of indescribable adversity.  These women aren't superheroes in the sense that they are able to handle their circumstances with ease and then are able to brush it all off.  No, these women suffer beyond what most of us can comprehend,

This book is also brave in that Messineo does not hold back.  When writing about such atrocities, there is the temptations to allude to things and to soften events for the reader.  Messineo does neither, and the book is better for it.  I respect an author who does not shrink away from the difficult things, but instead treats them with respect and realism, without falling into the pit of sensationalism.  This book is, at times, very difficult to read.  Twice, I had to put the book down for a day to clear my mind before reading on.  But the difficulty is what makes this novel so important and I commend Messineo for being bold enough to go all the way.

This is very much a character-driven novel.  We get to know Jo and Kay's histories, their dreams, their inner-most selves.  I adore character-driven novels, so this worked for me.  However, if you are looking for a more plot-driven novel, just be aware that this book would not fit into that category.

I only have 2 small complaints about this book.  I do wish that Jo's and Kay's story intersected more throughout the novel.  While we do get each character's history and how the two women knew each other and formed their bond, this did frequently feel like two stories in one book.  I also felt that the end was less meaty than I would like.  I wouldn't say that it is too "clean," as in everyone lives happily ever after.  But, after the intensity of the rest of the book, the ending seemed a little too light to me.  Yet, in both cases, my complaints were greatly outweighed by everything I did appreciate about the book and ultimately didn't hamper my satisfaction of the novel.

If you enjoy World War II novels, I highly recommend this one.  And, if you have WWII fatigue, I beg you to give this one a try.  Messineo has created a compelling and important novel that would be well worth anyone's time.

About the Author:
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.

Connect with Teresa on Facebook.

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

To learn more about this book, please visit some of the other stops on the blog tour.

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