The Fire By Night by Teresa Messineo is a historical fiction book about World War ll. It’s an event authors continue to use as their back drop, probably because of the savagery of it, the horrors of the Holocaust that continue to peak our morbid curiosity. Teresa Messineo doesn’t focus on the Holocaust, doesn’t even bring it up. Instead she tells us the stories of the field nurses. The women who volunteered, were sent overseas with the troops and set up medical tents amongst the fighting to care for the soldiers as soon as they were wounded. The Fire By Night follows two friends after they’ve been dispatched to their separate posts and the horrors they faced.
Jo and Kay met in nursing school and when they enlist together, they are sent to opposite ends of the world. Jo spends most of this story in France. She was left behind in a makeshift medical tent, waiting for the convoy to bring them to the hospital that never comes back. Kay is among thousands of people in a Japanese POW camp in Manila. While Jo stays busy keeping her six patients alive with her dwindling supplies, Kay reminisces about Hawaii before Pearl Harbor and write to Jo, knowing these letters will never reach her. Both women survive but will battle their demons while trying to figure out how to live in civilization once again.
Teresa Messineo managed to turn prose into poetry. Everything on the page was eloquent and gut wrenching. Messineo dug deep into what these women were thinking, how they were feeling, what they did to survive. My one critique of the story is from the middle; while chapters alternated between Jo and Kay, they became repetitive. Both women would feel such dismay, they wanted to give up altogether, but something would happen right at the end of the chapter, they would remember why they couldn’t give up and their spirits would be lifted enough to make it through to the next day. This went on for several chapters until both women were recused from their respective prisons.
It’s always good to stretch out of your genre once in a while. I’ve always enjoyed the historical fiction I’ve rea, I just have to remind myself not to take it as truth. Teresa Messineo’s writing easily makes this book worth reading. I really did enjoy seeing World War ll from a nurse’s point of view. Jo and Kay were strong and vulnerable in all the right ways. With The Fire By Night being Messineo’s debut novel, I can’t imagine what will be next.
By Emily Coleman