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February 4, 2024

The Women by Kristin Hannah ~ A Review

by Susan Roberts

The missing. The forgotten. The brave… The women.

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

book cover of historical fiction novel The Women by Kristin Hannah
February 2024; St. Martin's; 978-1250178633
audio, ebook, print (480 pages); historical fiction

I hardly have the words to describe this book.  It was so real and so emotional that my words can't do it justice.  The 1960s were the years that I grew up - I graduated from high school and college and got married during that decade.  I protested against the war and marched for equality but I never blamed the soldiers -as many people did - I blamed the politicians who took our country to this horrific chapter.  I knew that there were women in Vietnam but I never really thought about the fact that they too were faced with terrible conditions and terrible experiences and often came home with PTSD and scorn from their fellow Americans.  This beautifully written and well researched book by Kristin Hannah takes on the subject of women who served as nurses in Vietnam and what they faced on a day to day basis during the war and after their return home.  I think that this book should be a must read for people who don't know much about Vietnam and what was going on in the United States during this time period -- it will be a real eye opener for them.

“Women can be heroes, too.”

Frankie McGrath has lived a rich and sheltered life with her conservative parents and her brother.  Her father has a wall of heroes in his office with pictures of brave men in the family who have fought in wars.  As the story begins, her older brother's picture is destined to go on the wall because he's leaving for Vietnam.  A friend of his asks her why women can't be heroes too and that causes her to re-think her life plans.  Her parents plan was that she would marry well and have children.  She decides that after she finishes nurses training, she'll volunteer to be an Army nurse and go to Vietnam.  When she is making her plans, she is totally naive about what it will be like and when she first gets there she is overwhelmed.  She realizes that she made a huge mistake until her two roommates take her under their wings and teach her what needs to be done.  The friends are there for each other during their tears and despair as they watch young men die all around them and they are also by her side years later as she works to become part of American life again.   They are plagued with poor living conditions, working long hours and not having enough trained staff.  It gets to the place that they all hate to hear the sound of helicopters bringing in more wounded and dying.  But Frankie overcomes the issues and becomes a strong nurse even learning some operating procedures.  We see a once quiet girl overcome the adversity that is thrown at her on a daily basis.  When she returns home. she finds out that no one - not even her parents - are proud of what she's done.  Her parents don't want to even talk about her time during the war.  When she goes to the VA for help she's told that there were no women in Vietnam so she has to work through her issues on her own with the help of her friends.  Her life is in chaos as she tries to go back to work and is relegated to bedpans and minimal duties after being responsible for the life and death of young soldiers.  Will she ever be able to find the peace that she yearns for?

Frankie is one of the most well written and complex characters that I've read.  It was easy to make a connection with the young and naive Frankie and then to stay connected with her throughout her years in the war and the years she fought to recover from the war.  We were always taught in school that it was the men who lost their lives or who returned from war as broken people.  Frankie is a reminder that women too were part of the wars and also returned as broken people and - in the case of Vietnam   - unappreciated and scorned by the American public.  I have loved previous books by this author but The Women is my new favorite.

Warning:  Clear your calendar because you are not going to want to put this down AND have Kleenex close at hand because this story is going to cause tears of sadness, frustration and joy throughout.

Buy The Women 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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