cover image The War Librarian

The War Librarian

Addison Armstrong. Putnam, $17 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-32806-4

In the exciting latest from Armstrong (The Light of Luna Park), two young women decades apart struggle to find their place in the old boys’ club culture of the military. Kathleen Carre realizes her lifelong dream when she becomes one of the first women to accepted into the Naval Academy in 1976, but her grandmother Nellie, who raised Kathleen and served in the Motor Corps during WWI, expresses skepticism that a military career will lead to happiness. Kathleen enrolls anyway and meets with hostility from her mostly male peers. Soon after training begins, Nellie dies of cancer, a diagnosis she had hidden from Kathleen, leaving Kathleen to piece together the mysteries of her grandmother’s past. Meanwhile, in 1918, Emmaline Balakin travels from Washington, D.C., to Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France, to work as the librarian at a U.S. Army base. She’s told “war is no place for women,” but sticks around in hopes of reuniting with her childhood crush who’s stationed in France, along the way finding a kindred spirit in Nellie. However, Emmaline’s interest in banned books gets her into trouble and compels her to make a difficult decision with long-lasting consequences. The dual story lines masterfully reflect how nominal moves toward institutional inclusion can belie the persistence of cultures of exclusion. Historical fans will devour this intimate story about fighting for dignity and respect during trying times. (Aug.)