Battlefield Journeys

The Secret of Raven Point, by Jennifer Vanderbes (Scribner)

The Secret of Raven Point is set in World War II. Its central character, Juliet, volunteers as a nurse at the Italian front after her beloved older brother goes missing in action there. Though the novel focuses on Juliet’s journey, we see other journeys as well. The journey of a broken soldier who may have known Juliet’s brother and who’s survived a suicide attempt only to be brought up on court martial. The journey of a military psychiatrist treating this soldier and fighting to keep some sense of hope and purpose in the midst of war. The journey of a military chaplain who must weigh the competing spiritual and physical needs of the soldiers he serves. The journeys of other soldiers living within and sometimes—but not not nearly often enough—surviving the war.

In the hands of a less effective writer, these different journeys might flatten out, be bulldozed into clichéd experiences of stereotypical individuals, but Vanderbes prevents that from happening. While not utterly brutal, her novel doesn’t pander by giving us unlikely happy endings. It doesn’t degenerate into a romance novel.

When you’re ready for compelling fiction that will make you both feel and think, pick up The Secret of Raven Point.

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