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.”