The Nightingale is Here. Bring Tissues.

Nothing makes devoted readers happier than sharing a wonderful book find with others. If you are looking for your next bubble-bath-on-a-Sunday, I’ve-got-a-long-car-trip-this-weekend, I’m-Netflixed-out book, this is it.

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If you’ve never read a Kristin Hannah book, may I recommend that you start. She is one of the best writers I have encountered who is able to write with conviction and strength about the many layers that make up female friendships.

I tripped into my first Hannah book, Firefly Lane, due to a random Amazon “give me a good book to read” search.

It was one of the first books I remember reading that didn’t have a good girl and a bad girl — it just had girls. Who grew into women. Together. It was so refreshing to experience the pain that a friend can cause, even though neither is the villain.

In literature, it is very easy to find dynamic female relationships in which there is clearly a “better” woman. Even as you’re reading Gone with the Wind and you are loving Scarlett’s spit and fire, you are fully aware that Melanie Hamilton is the model we are supposed to strive for. The perfect, kind, soft woman.

And, yet, there is no such thing as a better woman. Beyoncé says it best.

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Kristin Hannah breaks these molds of traditional archetypes and creates women who are multi-layered and rich with depth. They could be your mom or your sister or your bestie or even you. The peace I felt when reading Firefly Lane as an 18-year-old, thinking, “I’m like Kate. I like Kate! She’s a normal woman who is also kind of a hero,” was an amazing feeling.

I started The Nighingale with the intention of reading it ever so slowly because it is meant for book club and I didn’t want to get too far ahead.

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All of these good intentions failed as soon as I opened the book.

The story is primarily set in 1940s France, as World War II is beginning to ravish the country, and then follows it through the end of the war. Readers get to experience beautiful, lush France wilting away as the Nazis take over. Our main protagonists are sisters Vianne and Isabelle.

If you have a sister or a bestie who is practically a sister, this book will speak to you in such an incredible way. Hannah is able to handle the frustration and pain and overwhelming love that accompanies sisterhood is such a graceful way that it will leave you breathless.

This book left me sobbing in a way that no other book has ever been able to do. I couldn’t catch my breath due to the incredible emotions this story created. In a truly remarkable way it is able to handle the juxtaposition of the horror of the Holocaust combined with the beauty of the feminine strength of the women left behind in wartime.

If you buy anything for yourself this week, let it be this incredible novel. And please comment with your thoughts and reactions.

 

Written by Shelby Dorsey, sadorsey@live.com

 

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