PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 01, 2012
ieutenant Philomela “Mellie” Blake is a part of the first crew of flight nurses to be sent overseas during World War II. Growing up travelling the world with her botanist father, Mellie has not lived a life that is conducive to making friends and being part of a group. Nurses are expected to not only assist with medical care but to be perky and friendly to the soldiers they serve and also with the other nurses. Those in charge wonder if Mellie will be able to accomplish both of these tasks.
Lieutenant Tom MacGilliver is an officer in an engineering battalion stationed in North Africa, and he has spent his entire life trying to outrun his infamous name. When an opportunity comes to anonymously exchange letters with a woman in the nursing division, Tom thinks it will finally be a chance to just be himself.
As Tom and Mellie exchange letters and as they wage battles both inside and out, a unique friendship forms. When they get the chance to meet face-to-face, will they be able to set aside the fears of their past in order to welcome the possibility of a wonderful future?
World War II is not my favorite historical fiction setting, but I really liked Sarah Sundin’s Wings of Glory series, and so I wanted to give this new series, Wings of the Nightingale, a try.
For starters, the whole concept of the army using flight nurses during WWII was just fascinating. Throughout the story I could feel the struggles these women faced to be taken seriously and to prove that they could carry out their missions with strength and excellence.
I also liked the concept of a romance blooming through the writing of letters – and anonymous ones at that. I felt as if I really got to know and care about both Mellie and Tom because I was able to see how they acted and thought around others and also through the things they revealed in their correspondence. The whole flow of the novel was extremely smooth, and the characters were very well-written, even the secondary ones. I look forward to seeing them return in the next novels in the series.
One thing that was especially striking about Mellie was how she desired to use her gift of mercy. She recognized this gift as being given by God, and she used it in ways besides just her nursing care – things that I hadn’t really thought of before.
The spiritual aspect of this novel was seamlessly woven throughout the story. Tom and Mellie both expressed their faith in God to each other and to others around them, but they did not come across as fake or as being judgmental. It was just who they were. Even though they had this faith in God, they weren’t perfect, and they grew tremendously throughout the story.
If you are more of a history buff than I am, then this book is for you. I tend to get bogged down in the details of maps and battles and the like, and also war-setting stories tend to have a lot of characters to keep straight. I enjoyed the time and setting overall. I just didn’t always think too much on the details. The details that were there, though, gave the story depth and made it historically rich.
I also thought that this novel was a bit long. I’m not sure if the story just took a little too long to get started or if it got long towards the end when I wanted Tom and Mellie to meet, but somewhere along the way it did drag somewhat. I think I also got impatient with Mellie towards the end since she was so extremely insecure.
With Every Letter is a wonderful beginning to what I’m sure will be a great series by WWII-era author Sarah Sundin.
ellie Blake is a lonely flight nurse who jumps at the chance to become a morale boosting pen pal with an anonymous soldier stationed in North Africa. Both of them find that they can give advice to each other on the struggles they face in the middle of the Second World War. When Mellie is transferred to the Mediterranean, chances are that she will come face to face with him during one of her evacuations. Will the anonymous and platonic relationship stand true?
Lt. Tom MacGilliver will forever be recognized by his name, thanks to his serial killer father, MacGilliver the Killiver. As a result, Tom feels like he constantly has to put his best face forward, even at the expense of being a respected officer. When Tom agrees to begin an anonymous friendship with a nurse back in the states, he soon breaks their resolve to keep their relationship platonic. And when Tom meets the exotically beautiful Lt. Mellie Blake, he finds himself in love with two different women. Or are they?
Tom and Mellie are characters that readers will be able to connect with emotionally. You feel their victories with them and also their disappointments and heartbreaks. Both characters are ostracized by things that are out of their control, and the reader will sympathize with that. It’s human nature to crave companionship and friends, yet they are often denied because of either race or a famous last name. As these characters struggle through and learn how to overcome their circumstances, they will pull on your heartstrings and become characters that you will root for.
One of the elements that make this novel so great is that Sundin includes little details that make the store believable. For example, there is very clever jump rope rhyme that pokes fun of Tom’s name and the actions of his father. The characters are also imperfect and make mistakes, which makes them come alive. You will be disappointed in them and rejoice when they make achievements. Tom and Mellie strive to be righteous and are aware of their struggles and shortcomings and work to overcome them. The vulnerability of Sundin’s characters helps the reader identify with them and makes the story believable.
Sundin also brings to light some aspects of WWII that are lesser known. While it’s common knowledge that there were nurses enlisted, the story informs the reader about multiple ways nurses were used in the war, specifically evacuation flight nurses. She also gives us a perception of what the war was like for minority soldiers who served in a particular time in history that was often intolerant of races other than Caucasian. Mellie’s character is informative and brings awareness of the plight of multiracial Americans. While Mellie obviously stood apart from white Americans, she was also considered an outsider of those who shared her Philippine heritage, as well, which made her feel alienated in all social situations.
Throughout the story, both characters make strides in their development. They both learn how to become a friend, rather than a superficial one. They learn to put aside their fears and expose their true selves to their peers and subordinates. Tom learns when it’s time to stop being a one of the guys and when to become a leader. Mellie learns that trust is the key to relationships, and even though you can be forgiven, it takes effort to rebuilt trust and restoration.
One thing I wish Sundin had expanded more on was the absent secondary characters. These characters have a strong importance in Tom and Mellie’s lives, but they get hardly any story time. We get to learn a lot of Tom’s memory of his father, but we don’t know much about his mother. She obviously was a strong woman to have raised her kids in dire circumstances, and I would have liked to hear more about her and how she combated her late husband’s legacy in her children. Mellie tells us a quite a bit of what her father’s beliefs are and how she was raised by him, but we don’t know much about his personality.
The spiritual lessons are numerous as the issues addressed in this novel. Both main characters look to scripture and Christ as an example on how to present themselves as a leader and a friend. Tom discovers 2 Colossians 5:17 and learns that he is not bound by his father’s sins, and does not need to alter himself to counteract the impression people have of him because of his last name. Mellie also learns how damaging gossip can be and that sometimes forgiveness does not always lead to restoration of what was before. Even if forgiveness is given, trust still needs to be built again.