I can’t say enough how much I enjoyed this book. I loved this very poignant story of two nurses during their service in WWII. They’re two very different woman with two very different paths during the war. The author, Teresa Messineo, researched and interviewed until she had enough factual pieces to weave into this compelling story.

the fire by night

The two women meet during their time at a hospital in NYC when they experience some trauma that’s a little too common during these times. The women embody what nurses are all about: service, self-sacrifice, and commitment to the job no matter the cost. This holds true when the nurses are at home, in Pearl Harbor, or held captive by the Japanese in POW camps.

There are a lot of “no freaking way” moments throughout the book. I won’t spoil them for you, but I will add that Messineo interviewed nurses from WWII and used these interviews to add to her story. The only anecdote I will share is at the end of one nurse’s service, the officer conducting her interview forces her to sign a contract stating that she will not speak a word of her experience during the war to anyone – not family, friends, spouse – no one. I immediately thought of all the stories I hear of family members who never spoke about their service during the war. My great uncle, for example, was taken as a POW during WWII. Uncle Jimmy never spoke a word about his time overseas to anyone. He took those stories to the grave. I wonder if he signed any such contract of silence?

I’d encourage you to read this if only so that you could experience a different side to the war. It’s good for us to relive history in order that we don’t repeat it. I feel this now more than ever with all of the neo-Nazi movements we’re hearing about on the news.

Talk about a page turner… woah. If you love historical fiction [particularly the WWII and Holocaust era], then this one is for you. There’s a little romance thrown in there, too, but this book is mostly about the compassionate people who find each other in the worst circumstances imaginable. It’s a story of courage, kindness, and finding one’s self in the midst of utterly horrid conditions.
salt to the sea
The author, Ruta Sepetys, writes in such a fluid way that you lose yourself in the plot, characters, and undertone of the story. I literally finished the book in one day (on our way back from Mexico). It’s that good.
Salt to the Sea
The story is based on the actual worst maritime disaster in modern history: the sinking of the refugee ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff (read a little more here). The ship lost 9,343 souls (5,000 of which were children). The Germans tried to cover up this catastrophic loss because of their pride [even though they were losing the war at this point].
wilhelm gustloff
[image cred here]

The sinking of the ship is a huge part of the story, but it’s the way Sepetys writes the characters that makes you see a different side of the war that’s rarely written about: the side of the German people. They suffered greatly, though in different ways in comparison to those in concentration camps.

I’d highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a compelling read that leaves you with a deeper understanding of humanity during times of war. Sepetys has written other novels (Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy), and I can’t wait to read both!

 

All the Light We Cannot See
Hands down – this is one of the most well-written books I’ve ever read. The back cover has a quote from a critic that states the author sees things as a scientist, but writes like a poet. That precisely defines how beautifully done this book is. It is extremely moving and powerful; you won’t be able to put it down!
It takes places in Nazi Germany (I know, another one), but it is from the perspective of a young German boy and a sweet French girl who is blind. Both are thrown into the war from a young age in different ways.
The young girl must flee her home with her father and find her way to her estranged uncle. She learns harsh realities along the way and when she arrives at her uncle’s. Her blindness never gets in the way of her ability to see things that others cannot.
The young boy is an orphan living with his sister. He hopes to have a brighter future than working in the mines like so many others. He finds his future through radios – taking them apart, putting them back together, listening to them. The Nazis see his potential and “recruit” him into their ranks. He quickly sees the brutality and dark future the Nazi party holds for him.
The two do eventually cross paths in a bittersweet moment. The book could not have been more perfectly written – the plot, characters, and themes are beautifully interwoven to provide a perspective on the war that I’ve never read before.