Teresa Messineo’s debut novel, The Fire By Night, is a “once in a lifetime story of war, love, loss, and the enduring grace of the human spirit” (Lauren Willig, NY Times bestselling author). It chronicles the war experiences of Jo McMahon working in field hospitals at and sometimes behind the front in occupied France and Kay Elliott, an army nurse as well, held captive in a squalid POW camp in Manila.  The author spent seven years researching her setting and topic, often interviewing military survivors of WWII, who were eager to have their stories told–accurately.

The book is both historically and medically accurate, and appeals to the emotions of the reader without becoming maudlin or “sappy.” The author deals with the women’s “place” and lack of status in the war, as well as the raw emotion brought out by their experiences, some of them told in rather graphic and gory detail.

Both women find out that life goes on after war, loss, emotional trauma, and discrimination and misunderstanding by those who “mean well.” It is a fast read that kept this reader turning pages and up late to “see how it all comes out.”


LAB GIRL by Hope Jahren: A Review

The Amazon review that made me want to read this 2016 memoir read like this, “I’m a mathematician and don’t always appreciate good writing, but this [writing] was amazing!” And, indeed, it is, both in the sensitive, poetic descriptions of the life of trees, plants and other botanical organisms and in the narrative of the story. The relationship between Hope and her more-than-assistant, Bill, was one that had me “rooting for them” to get together, but Alas, it was not to be.

Many themes are explored in this book, including struggles with mental illness, women of science, botany, friendship, motherhood, and many more–enough to keep the reader turning the pages to see what is next. It is funny in places, downright scary in other places, and touching and warm in between.

This book makes scientific facts fascinating!