Monday, March 17, 2014

Heroic Measures by Jo-Ann Powers

4 Star

Honoring those who have served their country in war, most focus on those who have fought on the battlefields. But one group’s heroics under fire have slipped through the pages of history, a group whose blood and sweat were left in operating rooms and hospital tents, a group whose heroism has seldom been measured.

For nurse Gwen Spencer, fighting battles is nothing new. An orphan sent to live with a vengeful aunt, Gwen picked coal and scrubbed floors to earn a living. But when she decides to become a nurse, she steps outside the boundaries of her aunt’s demands…and into a world of her own making.

Leaving her hometown for France, she helps doctors mend thousands of brutally injured Doughboys under primitive conditions. Amid the chaos, she volunteers to go ever forward to the front lines. Braving bombings and the madness of men crazed by the hell of war, she is stunned to discover one man she can love. A man she can share her life with.

But in the insanity and bloodshed she learns the measures of her own desires. Dare she attempt to become a woman of accomplishment? Or has looking into the face of war and death given her the courage to live her life to the fullest?

Kathryn - 4 Star

Set initially in the US during World War II I was completely drawn into Gwen’s existence as a training nurse and her passion and determination to complete her training. I believe I read last year a similar story about nurse trainees in the UK and both novels had parallel notions of servitude that went  unnoticed by so many before these wars.  During this historical period the nursing profession was prone to be seen as glamorous rather than strenuous and the reality was that those who went to serve on the front lines or remained behind to pick up the pieces worked as long and as hard as the doctors who were given much of the kudos.  I am pleased that there are writers making a point of telling their stories.

Power’s book doesn’t dwell on the pain and suffering, instead she plows through with Gwen’s choices of perseverance and unquestionable sense of duty- despite the worry of leaving her sister behind.  Gwen’s home life was nothing to be comforted by so it made sense that she would want to see what else was out in the world. I did worry though about her leaving her sister in the hands of her aunt and while it does come out as a concern for Gwen I’m not sure I would have been able to leave, had it been me. The duty of the profession took over. Gwen’s romantic relationships were honest and realistic too. I would have loved a different outcome though as I think Power hinted at an alternative that would have better suited Gwen but she probably made the right choice for herself.

Heroic Measures was graphic at times and didn’t gloss over the details of the danger and horror of nursing in the trenches. I was shocked more than once about the circumstances for those on duty and those fighting. Reading details always hits me more than seeing a movie does, and it’s good to be reminded of the sacrifices so many have made for us.  

Thank you to The Wild Rose Press/Wilder Roses for our review copy. All opinions are our own.

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