Monday, May 27, 2024

REVIEW: The Women by Kristin Hanna



The minute I saw the title and cover of The Women, I scanned the synopsis and knew I'd have to read it. I've been craving a novel about a woman's experience in Vietnam ever since I read Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and was hoping to find a novel to be its counterpart in my classes. While The Women most likely won't be paired with The Things They Carried, I do foresee myself recommending it to many.

The Women follows the story of Frankie, a young, naive woman who signs up to be a nurse in Vietnam after her brother volunteers to go. Her hope is to not only join her brother, but to follow in the family tradition of serving in the military, with her ultimate hope that she'll make her family proud. Much to her chagrin, her parents are mildly horrified but she's still hoping to make them proud when she leaves to serve. 

Her first days in Vietnam are foreshadowing her tour there--filled with chaos, nightmarish conditions, horrific injuries, a dawning realization that maybe we shouldn't be there, and the making of lifelong friendships that will help her through the next decades. 

Frankie not only learns that she's made of tougher stuff--through the trials, terror, and harrowing conditions she has to work in--she also learns about love and disappointment and friendship and loss. And with all of those lessons to carry her home, she arrives to the worst thing--U.S. citizens being horrible to her when she arrives on foreign soil, along with her parents being complete assholes. She tries to reacclimate and tries to do all of the right things to help heal her trauma from the last years she's experienced, but she cannot catch a break and it seems that with every good thing that occurs, she has a devastating event to wipe out all positive steps forward. It takes years and years, and truly hitting the very bottom for her to finally find a life that allows her some peace and fulfillment. 

I don't have many complaints about this novel, but if I did, I suppose one of them would be that just when we see her connect with someone very special, it fades to black. It made the ending bittersweet because I think we all want that extra zing of happiness for her after all she's been through. I suppose that's the beauty of this novel--these characters begin to feel like real people and you want so much for them to be happy and healthy and you hate that the novel ever has to end.


From the celebrated author of The Nightingale and The Four Winds comes Kristin Hannah's The Women—at once an intimate portrait of coming of age in a dangerous time and an epic tale of a nation divided.

Women can be heroes. When twenty-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath hears these words, it is a revelation. Raised in the sun-drenched, idyllic world of Southern California and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing. But in 1965, the world is changing, and she suddenly dares to imagine a different future for herself. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path.

As green and inexperienced as the men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is over-whelmed by the chaos and destruction of war. Each day is a gamble of life and death, hope and betrayal; friendships run deep and can be shattered in an instant. In war, she meets—and becomes one of—the lucky, the brave, the broken, and the lost.

But war is just the beginning for Frankie and her veteran friends. The real battle lies in coming home to a changed and divided America, to angry protesters, and to a country that wants to forget Vietnam.

The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on all women who put themselves in harm’s way and whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has too often been forgotten. A novel about deep friendships and bold patriotism, The Women is a richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose idealism and courage under fire will come to define an era.

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