The Secret of Raven Point: A Novel
by Jennifer Vanderbes
Hardcover- $26.00

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: ...

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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 other cities, large and small, families gather round their radios listening to the news. Eligible men and women begin to come to the defense of their country, enlisting in the armed forces.
Close friends and siblings, Juliette and Tucker Dufresne are in High School. She is shy, ashamed of a birthmark on her face. He is older, a high school senior and a football star. Tucker confides in his sister that he wishes to enlist and serve his country. This family is rather proud of his intentions, as others all over the country are proud of their sons and daughters, fathers and brothers, sisters and aunts. They have not yet witnessed the horrors to come and only experience the passion of their patriotism.

Jules and Tuck have a special secret code that they use when they need brotherly/sisterly aid or protection, like simply making up an excuse to their parents for the unexplained absence, of one of them, etc. The sibling in need sends a note saying they are with the fictional Mrs. Fan, as a signal.

When Tuck turns 18, and enlists. Jules writes everyday. Soon his letters home begin to dwindle. Finally, the family receives a letter stating that he is missing in action. They hold out hope that he will be found but are all too aware, by now, of the possibility that he will not return. Although Tuck had written Jules a letter a month before he went missing, it did not arrive until after they were notified. In his letter, he wrote that he was with Mrs. Fan, so she knew he needed help, but she had no idea how to find him, and wasn’t even sure if he was still alive.

When Jules graduated from nursing school in 1944, she was not yet 18, but because of the letter from her brother, she decided to alter her birth certificate and enlist. She wanted to try and find him; she hoped he was still alive. She went through the training and was shipped out to Europe. She requested the front so she could search for Tuck or at least find someone who knew what had happened to him. Young and immature, unprepared for what faced her, she was buoyed by her idealism.
This is a wonderful story about a brother and sister’s devotion, about family loyalty, about nationalism and also about the tribulations of war which makes all the glory pale in the face of its unexpected tragic consequences. War does not bring out the best in anyone. The author has captured, equally well, both the allure and the devastation of war. She has entered the minds of the injured soldier, the frightened in the foxholes who never envisioned what it meant to be shot at, to step on a mine, or to shoot the enemy. She shines a bright light on the bravery of the medical staff, selfless in their efforts to save their own. She has drawn a clear picture of the cruelty shown to soldiers who were “different”, in a time when homophobia was not a dirty word. She has really drawn a reasoned picture of the cruelty and futility of war coupled with its tragic, useless cost of life and limb.

I listened to this audio book using a new library app, called Hoopla. Unfortunately, there was no way to adjust the speed of the reader and that was often very distracting. It was the equivalent of watching water boil, and it took quite some time to get used to her pace.

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