A World War II novel based on the American military nurses serving in the Philippines. Follow Margie whose life changes forever when she is captured and held prisoner of war by enemy forces.
January of 1941, Margie Bauer is called to active duty in the Army Nurse Corps of the United States Army Reserves. She delights in her assignment to Manila--the Pearl of the Orient. She falls in love with the beauty of the island and a carefree social whirl of bridge games, pool parties, and dancing under twinkle-light stars with handsome young doctors. Though rumors of war circulate, she feels safe--the island is fortified, the airbases are ample, and the Filipino troops are training intensively.
December 8, 1941, her dream world shatters. Japanese bombers roar into the Philippines, turning everything in their paths to smoldering piles of rubble. Racing to stay ahead of the enemy, the U.S. Army evacuates all personnel to the jungles of Bataan, where Margie tends to wounded, sick, and dying soldiers in open-air field hospitals. With the Nips at her heels, she withdraws to an underground tunnel-hospital on the heavily fortified island of Corregidor.
Ultimately captured, she is interned at Santo Tomas, a Japanese prison camp in Manila. For three years, she doubts her survival in the harsh environment, where she faces escalating danger, starvation and loss. When American planes appear in the sky, she excitedly waves and calls, "We're here! We're here!" The liberation forces, however, bring with them a threat more dangerous than the Japanese guards, ensuring she will never truly be free of this evil place and all that has happened.
This story made me cry from the very first chapter. Margie is eighty one years old and attending the funeral of her daughter Barbara Ann who is has passed away suddenly. She is there with her son Gary and his wife for support but is finding it all too difficult to cope with as she feels she did not show her daughter enough love during her life.
After Margie is left safely in her new house she decides to go back to the house where she raised her family in order to feel closer to the memory of Barbara Ann. We are then told the story of her life from her childhood in Little Michigan to a wartime career in nursing,a career she did not want and only took that path to please her father.
I always enjoy books set during the war but I didn't expect this book to take me to a Japanese prison camp and move me so much, it was like watching a film where you are perched on the end of your seat never knowing what might happen next.
Although this is a fiction story it is based on true events. The thought of all those women going through absolute hell on earth is just unbelievable. There are so many twists in this book and quite a few shocks that I found it hard to put it down even for a minute.
Margie is a lovey girl,very naive having been brought up in a small town with doting parents. She makes good lifelong friendship while in Japan and some which turn to betrayal. She falls in love, but in the midst of war sometimes love can be fleeting. My heart broke for what she and the other women had to suffer.
I had never heard of the Malinta underground tunnel hospital where the nurses and cilvillians hid from the Japanese soldiers and can only imagine what it felt like to have to live there while being bombarded and with fear of capture. As if that wasn't enough Margie had the dreadful Max Renaldo to contend with and the conclusion to that is beyond belief.
I don't think this is a book you will find easy to forget, it was in my head days after I read it and is definitely one of the best books I have read this year.
If you enjoy books set during wars then you'll love this one.
Thanks to the publisher who provided an e copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.