Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Teresa Messineo

By Lynn Willoughby

The Fire By Night ~ Teresa Messineo

We follow two American military nurses during WWII.  Jo is assigned to North Africa, then Italy and finally to France.  As the army retreats, she is left behind to tend six very ill and wounded soldiers in a makeshift unit – a tent.
She has no medical supplies, little food, often no light or heat or even drinking water.  However, she has no family to go home to, hasn’t heard from her friend Kay in years and feels she has little to lose.  None of the soldiers are expected to live, although she continues the daily struggle for all of them to survive.
Kay thought she hit the jackpot when she arrived in Hawaii.  But after Pearl Harbour is bombed, she, along with many civilians, survive for months in an underground cave on the island of Corregador in the Malinda Tunnel.  Instead of liberation, they are taken prisoner by the Japanese and things get even worse in a POW camp in Manila.  The brutality, the starvation, death and sadistic treatment result in Kay weighing in at 74 pounds when they are finally liberated.
Jo and Kay each have their own war demons, both suffer from PTSD in silence as they try to find their own peace after the war.  But the world has changed.  They have changed too.  What is really important now?
This unique point of view of WWII held a fascination for me.  Not only did the nurses witness shocking wartime atrocities, but they had the additional responsibility to be strong caregivers.  They had to nurse under the worst imaginable conditions.
This is a debut novel but I hope for more from this author.

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