Historical fiction that grabs your attention and won't let it go!
The Women Book Cover The Women
Kristin Hannah
Historical Fiction, Family Life Fiction
St. Martin's Press
February 6, 2024
Kindle, Hardcover, Audiobook

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.

“Some women had worn love beads in the sixties; others had worn dog tags.”

Army nurses, 93rd Evacuation Hospital, Long Binh, Vietnam, 1968. B.J. (Greenway) Rasmussen Collection, Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation, Inc.

Kristin Hannah’s The Women is a compelling, fictional account an Army nurse’s service in Vietnam and her struggles to return to American civilian life. Army field nurses were a small group of women who were heroes in their own right, enduring many of the hardships of war while trying valiently to save the multitudes of US soldiers and Vietnam civilians that flooded their understaffed and poorly supplied field hospitals. In the majority of cases their efforts were unappreciated while in Vietnam and scorned when they returned home, with little to no acknowledgement of the PTSD and physical effects they struggled to overcome.

“As bad as it had been in ‘Nam, as frightened and angry and betrayed as she’d often felt by her government and the war, she’d also felt alive. Competent and important. A woman who made a difference in the world. This place would forever hold a piece of her heart.”

The Women is the fictional story of Frankie McGrath, a young, idealistic nurse from Coronado, CA who chooses to enlist after her older, Naval Academy graduate brother is shipped off to Vietnam. Frankie’s experiences mirror many of those lived by the Army nurses serving during the late 1960s. The places included and timelines followed are real, as Kristin was encouraged by Vietnam veterans to “name the places accurately”. This facet of the book makes Frankie’s story so much more impacting. Frankie’s personal relationships, encounters, and struggles humanize an event that for most people are only chapters in a history book they studied in school. This controversial time in American history was so much more than that as Kristin is so eloquently able to convey through Frankie’s time as a field nurse, her coming of age through love and heartbreak, and her struggles to come to peace with the person she was as a result of her time in Vietnam and the way she was treated when she got back home.

I loved The Women by Kristin Hannah! I knew, early on, it would easily be a five star read for me as I quickly became immersed in Frankie’s life as a field nurse and would completely lose track of time as the chapters quickly flowed by. I also couldn’t help but think of my daughter-in-law, who is also an active duty Army nurse, as the major themes had me contemplating ideas of war and service. Kristin humanizes this time in history with a story that expresses both the dark tragedy of the event but also the personal growth, maturity, and fulfillment that can come out of hardship and the friendships that can supersede economic or racial differences to form lasting anchors in a person’s life. You definitely want to read The Women, a story that makes history come alive in a way that will fully entertain but also grow you as a person.

Barb held out her hand. The three put their hands together. “Enough bad memories,” she said solemnly. “We won’t ever forget, God knows, but we move forward. Away from Vietnam. Into the future.”