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Book Review: The Women by Kristin Hannah


In 1965, the world was in turmoil, and for 20-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath, the concept of women being heroes was a revelation.

Raised in the sun-drenched, idyllic world of Southern California, Frankie had always prided herself on doing the right thing.

However, when her brother shipped out to serve in Vietnam, Frankie dared to imagine a different future for herself.

She joined the Army Nurse Corps and followed his path, embarking on a journey that would change her life forever.

The Untold Story of Women in the Vietnam War:

When we think of the Vietnam War, we often think of the men who fought in it. However, the story of women in the Vietnam War is often overlooked.

The Women follows Frankie McGrath, a young woman from a wealthy family in Southern California, as she navigates the challenges of serving as a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during the Vietnam War.

Despite her initial lack of preparedness for the harsh realities of war, Frankie’s determination and the support of her colleagues help her to improve her nursing skills and serve in a surgical unit in Pleiku, where heavy fighting is taking place.

ALSO READ: 20 Everyday Items You Didn’t Know Were Invented by Women

Multiple Perspectives on the Vietnam War:

While Frankie is the narrator of the story, Kristin Hannah skillfully presents different perspectives on the Vietnam War through the characters in Frankie’s life.

One such character is Barb, a Black woman from Georgia who serves with Frankie.

Barb’s experience highlights the stark contrast between Frankie’s hometown, where many avoided the draft, and Barb’s hometown, where almost everyone served.

This contrast leads Barb to activism, as she becomes involved with Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

The novel also introduces us to women dedicated to the cause of returning prisoners of war to the United States, offering a broader view of the war’s impact.

Complicated Family Dynamics:

A central theme in “The Women” is the complicated relationship between Frankie and her father. Frankie’s father maintains a “hero wall” in his study, adorned with photographs and memorabilia of his ancestors.

While men are added to the wall for various accomplishments, women are only added when they marry.

Frankie, aspiring to be added to the wall as a war hero like her brother, is disappointed when her father fails to see her in that light after her return from Vietnam.

This strained relationship with her father influences Frankie’s decisions and actions as she struggles for acceptance and recognition.

Romantic Drama Amidst War:

One of the captivating aspects of “The Women” is its exploration of romance amidst the backdrop of war. Frankie experiences love and heartbreak, with four romantic interests throughout the novel.

These relationships not only provide a source of comfort and escape for Frankie during her time in Vietnam but also play a significant role in shaping her identity upon her return home.

The romantic elements add depth to the narrative, appealing to fans of the romance genre.

Also Read: Top 10 Must-Read Books by Black Authors

Inspiring Women to Keep Fighting:

While set in the 1970s, the themes of “The Women” remain relevant today, inspiring women to continue fighting for equality and empowerment.

The novel’s depiction of Frankie and her friends’ journeys serves as a reminder of the importance of breaking down barriers.

The 11,000 women who served in Vietnam paved the way for progress, and their stories serve as a beacon of hope for women striving for equality today.

The Characters ~

  • Frances (Frankie) McGrath – nursing student from wealthy family
  • Finley McGrath – Frankie’s brother
  • Bette McGrath – Frankie’s mother
  • Connor McGrath – Frankie’s father
  • Rye Walsh – Finley’s best friend
  • Patty Perkins – Surgical nurse
  • Major Goldstein – Chief nurse
  • Ethel Flint – ER nurse, Frankie’s hooch mate
  • Barb Johnson ~ Surgical nurse, Frankie’s hooch mate
  • Jamie Callahas – Surgical doctor
  • Captain Ted Smith – Doctor
  • Slim & Coyote – Seawolves
  • Rob Aldean – Doctor
  • Harry “Hap” Dickerson – Doctor
  • “Gasman” – Nurse anesthesist
  • Sharlene – Nurse
  • Margie Sloan – Frankie’s hooch mate
  • Captain Mark Morse – Doctor
  • Stan – Rye’s dad
  • Becky – Frankie’s high school friend


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