Review of “The Lieutenant’s Nurse” by Sara Ackerman

Ackerman, Sara. The Lieutenant’s Nurse. Toronto, Ontario: Mira Books, 2019.

Paperback | $16.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0778307914 | 335 pages | Historical Fiction

5 stars

I was super excited for The Lieutenant’s Nurse, given how much I adored Sara Ackerman’s previous book, Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers, so much so that I didn’t even bother to investigate what the story was about before adding it to my TBR. But once I did take the time to find out, I was even more excited, given the untapped potential (at least in historical fiction books) of the storyline focusing largely on the days leading up to and following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

And Ackerman remains consistent in building on a sheer breadth of research to craft an engaging story rife with history, drama, romance, and even friendship. While the setup suggested that the love triangle would overwhelm everything else, instead of being just one part of the story, I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Eva and Clark do have evident feelings for one another, but it doesn’t feel like it overwhelms the plot or the stakes of the book, especially with so much else going on.

I was especially intrigued by Eva, since she seems to have left a dark secret behind her in Michigan, and I felt these flashbacks to her past were interweaved into the story in a great way, as well as leading up to a great conclusion. And on Clark’s side, it was fascinating to have the question explored of whether the Americans knew about the attack beforehand.

All in all, this is a wonderfully lush book with a compelling story and rich detail. It’s a definite must-read for all fans of historical fiction.

Review of “Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers” by Sara Ackerman

Ackerman, Sara. Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers. Don Mills, Ontario: MIRA Books, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-7783-1921-4. $15.99 USD. 

5 stars

I discovered Sara Ackerman at the same book event during which I discovered Bridget Quinn, and I was surprised and excited, after living in Hawaii all my life and largely considering the majority of the local literature as “not for me,” to find a Hawaii resident who wrote a book in a genre I was interested in. And upon digging into the book, I found it was a truly enjoyable reading experience.

Mixing first and third person POV can be a hit-or-miss with me, and in this case, it definitely worked well to differentiate the voices of both Violet and her daughter, Ella, and even makes sense narratively when it comes to the crucial moment when Ella reveals that she knows what really happened to her father.

The story also benefits from a diverse and colorful cast of characters, which reflects the demographics of Hawaii during the war. I love how Ackerman managed to capture the real sense of community between people from different backgrounds, presenting a narrative about the experience of Japanese Americans and their friends in Hawaii during a time when the government was against them, especially if they were in a position of influence.

Despite the story focusing mostly on the bond between the female characters, there are romantic elements, including a slowly building relationship between Violet and Parker, one of the soldiers temporarily stationed there. But it isn’t the major driving force of the story, so even if the ending left the romance feeling a little unresolved, I still felt that the book had accomplished all of the things it had promised to do, with no disappointment was I read the final words, as I had a feeling that things would be all right between them.