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WISCONSIN LOGGING CAMP, 1921

A BOY'S EXTRAORDINARY FIRST YEAR IN AMERICA WORKING AS A "CHICKADEE"

A thrilling peek into a portal of history, dramatic and moving.

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In Bastian’s historical novel, an orphaned boy flees war-torn Germany and finds work at a Wisconsin logging camp.

After Will Heinlein’s father dies fighting in WWI, his mother decides they have no future in Germany, and she sets her sights on the United States, where they have family. She dies in transit, however, and so Will arrives in New York in 1920 alone, unable to contact his uncle in Chicago. Fortunately, he meets Deiter Pzybylski, another lonesome traveler, a refugee from Poland who fought in the resistance against Russian occupation. Deiter takes Will under his wing with a casualness that belies the profound depth of his kindness, movingly depicted by author Bastian: “Hey, why not come with me? I’ve always wanted a little brother.” They travel to the frigid Wisconsin wilderness, where Deiter’s brother, Michael, waits for them. Will lands a job as a Chickadee, clearing icy, “serpentine trails” of impediments, including frozen “horse apples,” or turds, with a screwdriver. Once there, Will longs to graduate to the position of logger but has to contend with the perils of the work and environment, including Nyka, a dangerously violent logger. Bastian scrupulously researched historical records to create an impressively authentic portrait of the era. The pace of the plot is unrushed but never lags—Bastian draws the reader too deeply into Will’s cosmos for boredom to ever surface, and one can’t help but root for the protagonist. His prose, straightforward and unembellished but all the more powerful for its reserve, sets an affecting scene: “The more snow Nyka kicked away the clearer it became that it was a small body. I gasped when I realized I was staring into the hollow eye socket of a skull. The top of the skull was covered by a red knit hat.”

A thrilling peek into a portal of history, dramatic and moving.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-934553-54-1

Page Count: 178

Publisher: Bower House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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