Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Women by Kristin Hannah

The Women by Kristin Hannah is a compelling novel about Frances "Frankie" McGrath, who served in the Army Nurse Corps in Vietnam. The first half of the book covers Frankie in Vietnam following the enlistment and death in combat of her brother Finley, and second half is about her life after returning from the war.

While in Vietnam, Frankie worked numerous MASCAL, or mass casualty, events at the same time that the American government was lying to people about how successful the war was. Hannah wrote that on a day the Stars and Stripes newspaper reported no American casualties, seven men died in Frankie’s operating theater. Also, she saw cases of South Vietnamese civilians being killed by American bombs and napalm. 

Returning home, she had strangers proclaim her a “baby killer,” people at the VA tell her that services weren’t for her as "women weren't in combat," friends from school say she was joking about having been in the war, and her father get revealed as having told friends while Frankie gone that she was studying in Florence. 

The book jacket notes how idealism and courage come under fire in this era and as a female veteran, Frankie had to face people telling her “there are no women in Vietnam.” This was particularly cruel because as Hannah notes, “remembrance matters.” The ending is well-written and shows that people can start anew, and help others do the same. Also, it's noted that “being proud is something people have for themselves, even if others don't say they should be.”

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Family Family by Laurie Frankel

Family Family by Laurie Frankel is a really good novel about actress India Allwood, her adopted children Fig and Jack, her two biological children that she placed for adoption, their birth fathers, and adopted parents, and their interconnected lives. 

The book covers how adoption stories aren’t all either horrifying ones of abused children or uplifting ones about overcoming abuse. They’re life stories about people, and those stories don’t always fit into the small boxes we might think they do. 

India Allwood is a compelling character, someone who worked tirelessly to succeed, would write plans on index cards, and rip them up and throw the confetti in the air to celebrate successes. 

Frankel notes of how India didn’t “give up her babies for adoption," she placed them with loving families, leading to wonderful outcomes. Along with India, the book is about Robbie, and Bex, and Camille, and Davis, and Lewis, and Andrew, and Drew. They’re all part of one another’s stories, making each other who they are.