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The Secret of Raven Point: A Novel
by Jennifer Vanderbes

Published: 2014-02-04
Hardcover : 320 pages
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From the award-winning writer of Easter Island comes a powerful story of love, loss, and redemption amid the ruins of war-torn Italy.

1943: When seventeen-year-old Juliet Dufresne receives a cryptic letter from her enlisted brother and then discovers that he’s been reported missing in ...
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Introduction

From the award-winning writer of Easter Island comes a powerful story of love, loss, and redemption amid the ruins of war-torn Italy.

1943: When seventeen-year-old Juliet Dufresne receives a cryptic letter from her enlisted brother and then discovers that he’s been reported missing in action, she lies about her age and travels to the front lines as an army nurse, determined to find him. Shy and awkward, Juliet is thrust into the bloody chaos of a field hospital, a sprawling encampment north of Rome where she forges new friendships 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 whereabouts—but the trauma of war has left him catatonic. Racing against the clock, Juliet works with an enigmatic young psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Willard, to break Barnaby’s silence before the authorities take him away. Plunged into the horrifying depths of one man’s memories of combat, 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 emotional connection.

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. Haunting, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, The Secret of Raven Point is an unforgettable war saga that captures the experiences of soldiers long after the battles have ended.

Editorial Review

Amazon Guest Review of The Secret of Raven Point

By Matthew Pearl

Jennifer Vanderbes
Matthew Pearl

The plot alone of Jennifer Vanderbes's The Secret of Raven Point is a grabber, though it is just the beginning of the novel's strengths. Set during WWII, a young woman discovers that her enlisted brother has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Her desire to be part of the war effort and, at a deeper and more dangerous level, her will to find out what happened to her brother, leads her to volunteer as a nurse, giving us a rare perspective on the horrors and triumphs of war as she is sent to the Italian front. One of the usual challenges of placing fiction in a historical setting is how to maintain just the right touch, the interplay of a distant time and the private immediacy of characters we care about. This is what reels me into The Secret of Raven Point so thoroughly, making the big and important geopolitical events surrounding Vanderbesâ??s characters feel just as reachable and fresh as the very personal search on which the heroine Juliet embarks.

The elements that let you sink into the book are so well-balanced here. There's romance without being mawkish; there's real drama without being melodrama; and there's danger and suspense without ever feeling contrived. In many traditional depictions of World War II, we receive big panoramas of major battles; part of the interest Vanderbes skillfully creates comes by pushing the battles aside and leading us through the battle fatigues, the mental and physical injuries and the caretakers' traumas that make the hospital camps such fascinating subjects.

As a young woman sorting through the lives of the soldiers left behind as the war marches forward, Juliet never feels like an easy stand-in for the reader transported to WWII for the benefit of the story; she has a full force of life to her and that makes us invested in the secrets she chases. She adjusts and changes as the events of history do. One can think of this novel as having a parallel structure that is crafted by the heroine and the author; as Juliet peels back the layers of narrative around her brother's disappearance, Vanderbes builds the layers of the book. An equally fascinating aspect of the story revolves around Barnaby, a wounded soldier with whom Juliet forms a unique bond that could hold the key to her search. Again, he is not the typical figure of war. He is a complicated outcast who has felt the brunt of the accumulated cruelties of the battlefield and has been punished for it. Vanderbes is a great writer, at the level of words and the larger span of a compelling story, another reason The Secret of Raven Point is such a memorable novel that can be enjoyed in countless ways.

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  "The Secret of Raven Point, Jennifer Vanderbes "by thewanderingjew (see profile) 03/05/14

The book essentially begins in 1941. The Japanese have just bombed Pearl Harbor and a wave of nationalism sweeps the United States. In a place called Charlesport, South Carolina, like in oth... (read more)

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