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Welcome to Litfuse Publicity’s Blog Tour for Nightingale


Synopsis:

Esther Lange told Linus Hahn that she was sure. In reality, she was anything but sure that she wanted to succumb to his charms just for one night before he departed, bound for the World War II European battlefield. But she did, and soon found herself pregnant, shunned by her parents — who had already lost one daughter — and very much alone. Linus honorably arranged for Esther to live with his parents in their small Wisconsin home town, and they are engaged to be married when he comes home. Esther secured a nursing job at the local hospital, but more than two years later, still has not heard from Linus.

One day a letter arrives from a man named Peter Hess who identifies himself as a medic. Enclosed within Peter’s letter is the letter Linus intended for Esther to receive only in the event of his death.

No telegram from the U.S. government has been delivered, and there has been no knock on the Hahns’ door from a military chaplain. So Esther questions whether Linus actually perished. On the night Sadie was conceived, Esther barely knew Linus, having only dated him for a month, and she was not in love with him. She is confident that he was not in love with her, either. Is that the confession Linus wanted her to hear in the event that he would not return home? Or will she be surprised to read his profession of love for her and their two-year-old daughter?

And why does Esther feel herself drawn to Peter, who claims to be an Iowa farmboy? Full of self-doubt, insecurities, and continuing disappointment at her own short-comings, Esther wants to believe Peter when he tells her that she is not lost, after all, even though that is exactly how she feels. Peter seeks true freedom from all that imprisons him.

Through their letters to each other, Esther and Peter’s relationship blossoms, even as it threatens to destroy both of them.

Review:

Susan May Warren
Nightingale is the second installment in Susan May Warren’s Brothers in Arms collection. But like the first book, Sons of Thunder, it stands on its own. And keeps readers guessing, making it virtually impossible to put down once you begin reading.

Meticulously researched, Nightingale takes readers back to the waning days of World War II when victory in Europe had been declared, and Americans anxiously waited for word that the Allies had triumphed in the Pacific Theater, as well. Warren reveals and explores an aspect of the War seldom discussed in U.S. classrooms and, thus, not widely known to many: Between 1942 and 1946, more than 200,000 German prisoners of war (POW’s) were held in camps on American soil. In Minnesota and Wisconsin, more than 140 such camps were erected. Those POW’s worked on farms and in canneries alongside German immigrants, some of whose family members were fighting for Germany or housed in nearby camps. Warren’s research made her “realize that beneath the stamp of enemy just might be a fellow Christian, pressed into serving their country.”

“I wanted to write an epistolary novel that explored the power of correspondence. I’d never written such a novel, and the challenge inspired me.”
~ Susan May Warren

And that intriguing premise informs Nightingale, an exploration of how our assumptions about and labeling of other persons impacts how we perceive them, whether we feel compassion for them. The word “enemy” is understood, against the backdrop of a world at war, to refer to those strangers with whom our soldiers engage in battle. We often discover too late that we have enemies in our midst: In our cities and towns, our workplaces . . . even our own homes among our family members. We can be our own worst enemy. Indeed, it is sometimes quite difficult to discern our allies from our enemies.

Warren mines that concept to its fullest potential. First, her protagonist, Esther, is frequently her own worst enemy because of her nagging guilt and remorse over the choices she has made thus far in her life. At the story opens, Esther has not yet begun to understand the depth of her own strength and resilience to the point that, as she attempts to talk a wounded soldier who is threatening to jump, down from the roof of the hospital, she momentarily contemplates jumping herself, tempted by the idea that flying off the roof might deliver peaceful freedom. Esther’s impulse is fleeting, thankfully, largely because she puts the needs of her young daughter, Sadie, ahead of her own. Still, however, Esther feels, at the outset, trapped and unable to extricate herself from the circumstances in which her decisions have imprisoned her.

Warren is a master at exploring the emotions of female heroines like Esther. She deftly shares Esther’s inner dialogue with her readers, drawing them into Esther’s tumultuous search for unconditional love and acceptance, while vividly constructing Esther’s surroundings. You can practically hear Esther’s crisply starched white nurse’s uniform rustle as she moves about the sterile hospital, caring for the wounded, and feel your own heart pound along with Esther’s as one unexpected plot development after another compels you to read “just one more chapter” before retiring for the evening.

Peter is also trapped in circumstances not of his own design or making. For him, Esther is the embodiment of his chance for freedom and happiness. He is desperately trying to hold on until the War ends, daring to dream that its conclusion might lead to his own redemption.

And then there is Linus, trapped in his own way — in a body that has been forever changed by battle, in a relationship that he never intended to be long-lasting, and bound by the conventions of his family and the society that is so important to them.

As is typical of Warren’s writing, the characters are complex, perplexing, sometimes maddening, but convincingly memorable. You will find yourself contemplating this tale long after you have finished reading it and that is, perhaps, the best recommendation for a fictional story such as Nightingale. Less overtly Christian than some of Warren’s other work, the story is nonetheless founded upon a message of faith, and faith-based themes and imagery are woven into each character’s journey and the overarching story. But as with many novels penned by contemporary Christian novelists, Nightingale can, because of the secular duality of the story’s message, be savored and enjoyed by believers and nonbelievers alike.

I read Nightingale in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review and the Fall Into Reading 2010 challenges.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Nightingale free of charge from the author as part of the Litfuse Publicity review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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9 Comments

  1. Wow! This sounds like an outstanding book! I’ve never heard of the book or the author. Thanks for sharing this book – I’m going to go look for it!

  2. Excellent review, and quite a comprehensive synopsis there, which is really intriguing. I hope this has a Kindle version.

  3. This book is really something to think about. I mean it’s a thought-provoking book. I find it interesting to read. =)

  4. This is a wonderful review! I love books that teach us something that we didn’t know about history (I definitely didn’t know that we held German POW’s here on American soil), and books that illustrate that even Christians aren’t infallible. Thanks so much!

  5. I just found your blog and think it is terrific!
    I love books set in this time period, and our review makes the characters seem so richly drawn. I will definitely be seeking this one out 🙂

  6. Sounds like a very interesting book! I haven’t read any of Susan May Warren’s books yet, though I’ve heard good things about her work. Maybe it’s time to pick one up… 😉

  7. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: December 4, 2010 | Semicolon

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