Friday, May 24, 2024

Kristin Hannah’s “The Women” is a Powerful Story With Ties To Coronado

Book Cover for Kristin Hannah’s “The Women”

Kristin Hannah released her latest bestselling book February 6th, less than a year after she spoke at a Coronado Friends of the Library event and announced that part of the book would be set in Coronado. While the book, The Women, started in the idyllic setting of Coronado, it quickly brought the reader on a journey to the harshest war-torn areas of Vietnam. Following the life of a young woman from Coronado who decides to serve her country as an Army nurse, The Women gives a first person account of what it was like to serve during Vietnam and return to a country that you don’t recognize. This is a powerful novel of a rarely talked about war, especially from the perspective of a woman service member.

Coronado Library exhibit, Vietnam’s Valiant Heroes: A Tribute to Military Nurses, was displayed during Women’s History month and coincided with the release of the book. This photo is of a recruiting poster for nurses in Vietnam.

Hannah has a gift for drawing her readers into her historical fiction novels, providing them with new perspectives and understanding on the events of the time. In The Women, Hannah takes readers on a roller coaster ride of emotions that at times are so intense the reader needs to take a break and put the book down for a bit. Hannah’s thorough research and rich detail gives her characters such an authentic feel that the reader becomes invested in the outcomes. Heartbreak, shock and disappointment reverberate through the storyline and into the reader. Even those familiar with the events surrounding the Vietnam War will be shocked by the atrocities described in the book, both overseas and at home. Hannah did an incredible job of portraying the sentiment of the nation from the people who served and saw the horrors of war to the people at home mourning lost loved ones, and the overall frustration felt by all because of the misrepresentation and misinformation spread by the government and media.

A photo from the Coronado Library exhibit of nurses on liberty at a beach in Vietnam. A similar scene was described in the book “The Women.”

The book has a profound effect on its readers, but each reader is moved for different reasons, some remember living through this turbulent time in history, others gain a better understanding of their parents’ generation and others are reminded just how fortunate they are to live in the a nation that was forged through adversity and came out stronger. As someone who served in the Navy for 21 years, during a time when military service was celebrated, when women were becoming a more common part of the team, I found myself grateful for the sacrifices made by the incredible women who paved the path for this generation, and thankful for the support my family, community and nation as a whole gave to those serving our country.

A photo from the Coronado Library exhibit of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, located in Washington D.C. This sculpture was dedicated on November 11, 1993.

Longtime Coronado resident Sally Zol shared her thoughts on the book saying, “The book took me to my knees, it was extraordinary. My late husband, Jimmie, served in the Army in Vietnam and he had a tough time just like thousands of our service members did when they returned. The book brought back so many conversations about his time there, he spoke mostly about the beauty of Vietnam, and the camaraderie that was formed, but the stories Kristin Hannah told in her book made me take a step back and wonder how I didn’t have the full picture.” Sally shared that her husband was moved by the orphanages they would help support in Vietnam that were filled with children that had become deaf because of the war. He came back and became an educator, teaching at the Rochester School for the Deaf. He saw it as a positive outcome after an extremely challenging experience in Vietnam. She said that her husband felt like our nation learned a hard lesson from the lack of homecoming support for those who served in Vietnam. Sally is on the Steering Committee for the League of Wives Memorial Project, an organization committed to honoring the women who advocated for bringing all prisoners of war home from Vietnam. Coronado, California, is the birthplace of the organization and home to The League of Wives founder, Sybil Stockdale and the memorial is scheduled to be unveiled in Star Park Circle this summer.

My Aunt, Donna Cambi, was married to a Navy Sailor during the time of Vietnam and highly recommended I read this book. Donna said, “It brings back memories of those years …years when so many in our country treated the homecoming vets with such hostility, meanness, anger and cruelty. Those nurses were so brave, strong and caring…not to mention all the others who contributed and sacrificed more than we’ll ever know. God bless them all and those that serve today.”

A Navy colleague Jen Zeldis shared that her mother was in the Red Cross during Vietnam, and said, “I think she talked about her experiences a little, but this gives me some tearful insight into what she experienced.” Jen went on to say, “I loved that this book featured three women from different backgrounds that share an experience and became pretty much family. That was my military experience. The reality of what these women went through is nothing I can compare to. I’m grateful to have read it.”

Finally, Shannon Piagientini summed it up saying, “I was blown away with how she [Kristin Hannah] conveyed the pride and confusion and the disappointment they [The Women], felt. I also loved how she gave voice to the hardship of politics versus service and the humanity in a backdrop of loss and tragedy. It felt so very real and I think anyone who has never served needs to read this book.”

Kristin Hannah, photo from her website.

I have yet to encounter someone who read the book that didn’t express how powerful it is. Kristin Hannah has written many inspiring historical fiction novels and The Women is another amazing addition to her great works.

Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie Groeneveld
Jeannie is a retired Naval Aviator and Public Affairs Officer whose post-Navy career includes freelance writing, PR Consulting and a two year stint as the San Diego Padres Military Affairs Advisor. Having been stationed in various parts of the country including Washington D.C., Florida and Hawaii, Jeannie appreciates how amazing the Coronado community is and loves the experience her children have had growing up here. Jeannie earned her BS in Marine Biology from Auburn University, her MS in Global Leadership from the University of San Diego and her MA in Communication and Media Relations at San Diego State University. A life-long learner and avid traveler Jeannie enjoys writing travel pieces, Navy stories and anything else that will broaden her perspective. When she is not working you will find her watching her boys play sports, walking Odin at dog beach, hiking, playing beach volleyball or spending time with the family.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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