cover image When We Had Wings

When We Had Wings

Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner. HarperMuse, $27.99 (422p) ISBN 978-0-7852-5334-1

Lawhon (Code Name Hélène), McMorris (The Edge of Lost), and Meissner (The Nature of Fragile Things) team up for an illuminating story of the nurses stationed in the Philippines during WWII. Minnesotan Eleanor Lindstrom becomes a nurse to move on from a broken heart; Penny Franklin flees a tragic personal life in Texas; and Filipina Lita Capel hopes to use the job to gain entrée into the U.S., like her older sisters. The three become friends in the Army Navy Club in Manila in August 1941, an idyllic time until their lives are upturned by the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The authors ably depict the stark shift in the women’s work during wartime and convey how their friendship continues to inspire them to prevail when faced with hardships after they are separated—Eleanor to Santa Scholastica College, Penny to Corregidor Island, and Lita to the Bataan Peninsula. The atrocities—including starvation and subsistence living—pile up, not only for soldiers but also for the nurses and the civilians turned internees. Though the three women’s personalities seem interchangeable, the authors pull off a gripping and seamless narrative. With this fine tale, the authors succeed at bringing to readers’ minds the courage and sacrifice of those who inspired it. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Oct.)