Harsimran Kaur On  Mar 20, 2024, In Book Review, The Women By Kristin Hannah– Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Frankie McGrath lands in Vietnam to fight the wounds of the debilitated and the incapacitated. The egregious war has turned Vietnam into a forbidding territory of impassioned impressions albeit curled with imprudence and impropriety. Frankie is not the combat on the ground; feet in casuistry moving galumph crossing the perilous boundaries to spearhead the enemy. She is a nurse—a woman in Vietnam and let me tell you nobody gives a hoot & hell if she was even the white cloud in the otherwise unblemished horizon.

How stories etched in the past sometimes become a ripening mess in the present? Frankie, after Vietnam is the sauerkraut cut by sententious voices and scurrilous judgments, raucously punched by the people of her own country as a ‘Nazi bitch’ and the recherché of a ‘baby killer’. Her parents nakedly delusion her, insinuating  the efforts of unconditional service and achievements at the warzone. They find the entire ‘woman warfare’ as facetious and a bit of a recondite accessory. Look at Frankie? She lies awakened to her past traumas and the present perfidies; a soloist playing a tune of ‘unrealistic hope’ and ‘ineluctable despair’.   

Womanhood is difficult!

Womanhood is diaphanous!

Womanhood is a de trop!

These voices burling, croaking hard, inflamed by the issues of morality detest the emergence of perceptive womanhood; a tough duckling swimming in its own rear. Who are these people pernickety in their ordinance and priggish in their humility? Is it their ego that substantiates a woman as a ‘pariah’ or a fault of the idiosyncratic consanguinity that wishes to control women lying as a sharpened toll in the clamored box?

Or, we just don’t want to see women as ‘Heroes’?

Frankie McGrath is overwhelmed to hear ‘women can be heroes’. At the age of 22, these words unfold a path that defines the purpose of her life. She relentlessly joins the Army Nurse Corp, heads to Vietnam serving 2 years as a surgical nurse. What lives with Frankie in Vietnam is immiscible. The earthily sediments ruffled with blood purging the inequities of human survival and the cannonades ironing the cadence of ‘shout-outs’ is like passing through a black hole. The unsettled nerves holding a dead baby and the camaraderie of last ‘teamsmanship’ with the dying is a cessation to the accosted fear.

But, how can the heart bury forever what has consumed it mercilessly? What you feel inside has a way to show. Womanhood during war makes a gateway as Frankie, Ethel and Barb join in spirit and survival.

‘The Women’ by Kristin Hannah is a formidable tale of three women who in certitude and indomitability take on the challenge to be a part of the palliative journey at the war to save lives. It never felt like they were indulging in a woman-centric prosody but moving ahead with the propensity to be humane. This very purpose makes Frankie, Ethel and Barn to do the desideratum, even though the anomalous precincts creep every now and then to defy the derring-do.

Heart wrenching and full of stoicism felt in the book, one realizes that battle for women has never been easy. An eclipse always surrounds their magnitude to perform. ‘To be born to drudgery’ or the ‘baby making portfolio’ has addressed their sensibility for eons. Don’t they travel an uneven road where pride is contemporaneous with the panicle of subservience?

  • Will Frankie disappointed by betrayals & loss find her true purpose again? Falling in love made her believe in ‘love’ and the very same ‘love’ left her disempowered. Was ‘falling in love’ during war finding recluse from the tragedy around or a passion ignited to find a home where morality left the crusade? Was her womanhood a mockery to the strait laced per functionary?
  • A raptor that could be cut by a rapier! Frankie, Ethel and Barb after their tryst in Vietnam are repressed by toxic wounds. They try to infuse a wealth of superiority but are ploughed back as detritus.

What are they left with? What good war did to them? The internecine rivalries within the country left them desolate. Their ignominy was brought on by callous America (their homeland) that made them the tough vehicle to be transported or the disgruntled Vietnam stuffing them with irrevocable memories? The hagridden melancholy, the desultory conversations and fighting the deride—all made them lose the dendrite of their identity.

What was left then? Healing!

Emotionally built-up through the wreck of divilrious war, the book presses hard to accept women by ‘what they believe in’. The story of Frankie McGrath from Coronado Island to Vietnam and back gain opens up the incongruity of the society to deny women of their cause celebre.

Was it easy for Frankie? No!

Moving from a heart-break to a miscarriage and then to a psychiatric ward, the effects of war heap heavily on Frankie making her a dead duck.

Finally, the light batters an effective glow,

To the body that stirred and was slow,

The depth to live and sustain,

Look inside! Don’t refrain,

The dead past creeps in a hollow voice,

Take me along!

I say,

It’s time to add another poise of joy!


Unsettling and brave…

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