Tuesday, November 30, 2010

‘Nightingale’ by Susan May Warren – Book Review

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I am fascinated by reading novels that are set in another time period. It is a bonus when the book is wonderfully well written! I found those qualities in the latest book from Susan May Warren, ‘Nightingale.’

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

Esther Lange doesn’t love her fiancé – she feels trapped in the engagement after a mistaken night of passion. Still, she grieves Linus when he’s lost in battle, and the letters sent by medic Peter Hess, who stayed by Linus’s side as he lay dying, give her a strange comfort. So much so that she strikes up a correspondence with Peter, a wholesome Iowa farm boy. But is he? Peter is hiding a secret, something that could cost them both dearly, especially when the past comes back to life. In this bittersweet home-front battle between duty and the heart, only one will prevail.

Here is the biography for this fabulous author:

Susan May Warren is an award-winning, best-selling author of over twenty-five novels, many of which have won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, the ACFW Book of the Year award, the Rita Award, and have been Christy finalists. After serving as a missionary for eight years in Russia, Susan returned home to a small town on Minnesota’s beautiful Lake Superior shore where she, her four children, and her husband are active in their local church.

Susan has wonderful attention to detail. Here is an example; it gives us an idea what life was like during World War II, and the book is chock-full of this type of passages:

Esther treaded down the hallway in the kitchen. Yes, there on the stove, in the aluminum pot, a batch of milky porridge and covered in a towel, fresh bread.
She lit a match, turned on the heat to the stove, poured herself a glass of milk from the icebox, and then cut herself a piece of bread, standing at the counter to tear it into pieces, watching a squirrel contemplate its way up the cottonwood outside. (p. 33)

One of my favorite things about this book is the letter exchange between Esther and Peter. Here is an excerpt from a letter from Peter to Esther, with Peter creating a wonderful word picture:

Yes, I do remember, by the way, the Ferris wheel at the Iowa State Fair. Perhaps you were the girl in blond braids with pretty red bows at the end, waving to her parents as she took flight over the midway? I remember standing in the middle of the grounds, the cotton candy dissolving in her mouth, watching her raise her hands above her as the wheel reached its zenith, as if she might fly. (p. 90)

There are some powerful spiritual elements in this book. Here is Peter’s forgiving observation to Esther:

“Listen to me. Don’t despise the grace given to you by staring at your sin. You must turn around and keep your eyes on the face of love. The face of grace. This is where you’ll find forgiveness.”
….” Esther, you’re not lost. God knows exactly where you are. You just have to stop and let Him find you.” (p. 182)

I was fascinated by the fact that German prisoners of war were transported here to the United States during World War II; I was not aware of that aspect of the war. Susan, in her ‘Author’s Note,’ provides more detail:

Did you know that, in 1945, Wisconsin and Minnesota hosted German POWs in over 140 POW camps throughout the state? In fact, America held over 200,000 German POWs from 1942-1946. What’s most interesting is that these POWs worked on farms and in canneries throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, and other states, right next to first-generation German immigrants who, ten years earlier, might have been their neighbors. Indeed, some of the German immigrants had family fighting for Germany, and relatives in the very POW camps nearby. I read a newspaper account about a woman who was moved because she heard hymn, sung in German (her native language) coming from inside the camp, which was housed just across the street from her home. It made me realize that beneath the stamp of enemy just might be a fellow Christian, pressed into serving their country. (p. 317)

Susan goes on to point out another main theme in her book:

An even bigger theme in Nightingale was, just because someone made a mistake once, did he or she deserve to be imprisoned inside that mistake forever? I applied this theme broadly to both Peter and Esther. Esther might be a healer, but she’s trapped inside her sins, unable to see God’s grace setting her free. And I wanted Peter to see that his service in the war might be to fight the demos that held her captive. His story is a Daniel story, of sorts – a prisoner sent into a forgiven land to do good and hold onto faith. Esther’s story is that of the woman caught in sin – and set free to sin no more. Both of them have to surrender themselves into God’s hands, to let Him set them free and mold them into who He wants them to be.
If you have made a mistake, don’t let it mold your life. Let God set you free with His grace, His forgiveness, and discover who you are when you let God take over. Be found in Him. (pp. 317-318)

This is the fourth Susan May Warren book that I have read. Two that I have read are ‘Double Trouble’ (you can read my review here) and ‘Licensed for Trouble’ (you can read my review here). Susan is a versatile author. These two books have as their main character P.J. Sugar, a private investigator. They are set in the current day and have a humorous bent. This book is set in 1945, during the last days of World War II and its aftermath. The styles could not be more different. That, to me, is the definition of a talented and terrific novelist – and Mrs. Warren is the personification of that! The third book of hers I have read is ‘Sons of Thunder,’ the first book in this ‘Brothers in Arms’ series (you can read my review here). This book is second in that series; ‘Part the Waters’ will be releasing in 2011. I look forward to joining the adventure that Susan takes us on next!

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Summerside Press. I am happy to be participating in the LitFuse Publicity Group’s blog tour with these other bloggers.

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