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June 25, 2023

When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, Susan Meissner ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

An interwoven tale about a trio of World War II nurses stationed in the South Pacific who wage their own battle for freedom and survival.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, Susan Meissner
October 2022; Harper Muse; 978-0785253341
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); historical fiction

In the Philippines in the summer of 1941, three nurses form a deep friendship as they enjoy life on the tropical island.  All three are escaping from secrets in their past and are looking forward to their time in Manila.  Then on December 7, their lives change radically when the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and start an offensive that will bring them to the Philippines.

Eleanor is a U.S. Navy nurse, Penny is a U.S Army nurse and Lita is a Filipina nurse.  After their first meeting, they make plans to meet once a month for drinks.  Their plans only last for  few months before the war starts and their duties as nurses puts them right into the midst of battle.  When the Japanese land, the nurses become prisoners of war - the first female POWs of the war.  What they had to endure during their time in captivity was unbelievable.  Their resolve was tested daily with mass casualties, squalid living arrangements, food shortages, and the enemy’s blatant disregard for the articles of the Geneva Convention.  The women worked hard to keep their hope live despite what they were going though and to nurse the injured as best they could without needed medical supplies. As they are moved to different areas and separated, they hope and pray to see each other again and for the ultimate end to the war.

After the war, the nurses who were held prisoners of war become known as the Angels of Bataan for their dedication and hard work to treat the wounded in often squalid and dangerous situations.  It's a different look at the war through the eyes of the nurses that were there.  This book is based on real US nurses who were held by the Japanese during World War II.  There hasn't been a lot written about them because when the women returned home, they were forced to sign an agreement with the US government that they wouldn't talk about their war experiences so most of their stories were kept hidden from the public.

This intense and well-researched novel was written by three popular authors of World War II fiction.  There was no way to tell who wrote what parts as the entire novel fit together seamlessly as if it had been written by only one author.  This is a war story and in parts, it is difficult to read, especially the treatment of the nurses by their captors but despite this, the prevailing theme is one of friendship and how it can overcome even the worst trauma and provide hope even during the darkest times.

Buy When We Had Wings at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

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