Indie Next ListFebruary 2014
This story of a young woman's tour of duty as a WWII Army nurse is remarkable. Headed for a career in science, Juliet veers toward nursing in an effort to find her brother who is missing in action in Italy. Hope, love in many variations, stories of soldiers, doctors, nurses and support staff, the wounded and dying, civilians and officers -- it's all as messy as war and also splendid, heroic, and prosaic. Readers will be drawn in by the characters and deeply moved by the telling of their stories. Books as special as this make my job as a bookseller a joy! -- Becky Milner, Vintage Books, Vancouver, WA
From the award-winning writer of Easter Island (hailed by People magazine as a “rich and worldly first novel”), comes a powerful story of love, loss, and redemption amidst the ruins of war-torn Italy.
1943: When seventeen-year-old Juliet Dufresne receives a cryptic letter from her enlisted older brother pleading for help, and then finds out he’s been reported missing overseas, she lies about her age and volunteers as an army nurse to find him. Shy and awkward, Juliet is thrust into the bloody chaos of a field hospital, living in a sprawling encampment north of Rome where she forges new friendships with her fellow nurses and is increasingly consumed by the plight of her patients. One in particular, Christopher Barnaby, a deserter awaiting court martial, may hold the answer to her brother’s fate—but the trauma of war has left him unable to speak. Racing against the clock, Juliet works with an enigmatic young psychiatrist, Henry Willard, to heal Barnaby’s psychic wound before the authorities take him away and any clues as to her brother’s fate are forever lost. Plunged into the horrifying depths of one man’s combat memories, Juliet and Willard are forced to plumb the moral nuances of a so-called just war, and to face the dangers of their own deepening connection.
Reminiscent of Pat Barker’s Regeneration, The Secret of Raven Point is a war saga capturing the experiences of soldiers after the battles have ended. And as few novels have done, it depicts the ravages of war through the eyes of a young woman.
In luminous prose, Vanderbes tells the story of one girl’s fierce determination to find her brother as she comes of age in a time of unrelenting violence. The Secret of Raven Point is historical fiction at its best: haunting, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting.
About the Author
Jennifer Vanderbes is the author of the novels Easter Island and Strangers at the Feast, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Public Library Cullman Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Granta and has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in New York City with her daughter. Visit her website at JenniferVanderbes.com.
Praise for The Secret of Raven Point…
“The Secret of Raven Point draws the reader in with evocative period drama and a rich emotional portrait of its heroine. An arresting, exciting journey of discovery from an extremely talented author.” -Matthew Pearl"The Secret of Raven Point is a subtle evocation of war and loss, which Jennifer Vanderbes—with extraordinary cleverness and restraint—explores slantwise, the story coming visible through its glimmering contours, like an embossing on fine paper or an impression in snow." -Lauren Groff"The Secret of Raven Point is that rare book that reminds us of the deep, immersive pleasures of novel-reading: of getting lost in a story, of being transported to another time and place, of growing so attached to characters that they feel as present and real as one’s own friends. Jennifer Vanderbes takes a harrowing but little-known chapter from WWII history and through her compassionate and brilliant rendering, transforms it into a story that is urgent, personal, and profoundly moving." -Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, National Book Award-Nominated author of Madeleine is Sleeping“The Secret of Raven Point is about piecing together meaning in lives and minds shattered by war. It's a meditation on the power of steadfast love in all its forms –romantic, fraternal, platonic, even divine—to restore wholeness out of chaos, and light out of unspeakable darkness. Jennifer Vanderbes gives us characters we care about and a story we believe in an engrossing novel that brings home the particularity of war. A moving tribute to a generation of men and women whose stories, and whose lives, for the most part are now lost to us, it's a great read.” -M.L. Stedman, author of The Light Between Oceans