Looking For Jane by Heather Marshall

Published March 1st 2022 by Simon & Schuster Canada

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

With all that is going on with women’s reproductive rights, this was a very timely book for me. Looking for Jane is set in Canada and deals with the legalization of abortion and all that happened leading up to that. It is a dual timeline story, set in 1971 when abortion was illegal in Canada, but there were underground organizations made up of doctors, nurses and others who were helping women to find a place to have an abortion. As a teenager, Dr. Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for “fallen” women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption—a trauma she has never recovered from. She joins the Jane Network, to make sure no young woman had to go through what she did. When 20 year old Nancy Mitchell finds herself pregnant, she doesn’t want to take a chance on her life, but learns about the Jane Network, a place she can make her own decision. The second storyline is set in 2016. Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession in a stack of forgotten mail and is determined to get the letter to those it was intended for. It leads her on a long search, where we learn about the past storyline.

This story drew me in right from the beginning. Meeting a young Evelyn and seeing what she went through was heartbreaking. As she grew into adulthood, I liked how she moved forward doing something that was important to her. Unfortunately, she never got over her past, which made her a sad character as well. The women in this story were so realistic and relatable, that I felt like I was there with them. The tension when police raiding the clinics was palpable. With abortion being legal in Canada, since 1988, it is important that we remember those who lost their lives in back alleys and dark rooms and pray that we don’t go back to that. The author’s notes were very interesting as she shared about her research and amalgamation of many groups that became the Jane Network in this story. This is a story about maternal love, adoption, abortion, and the right to choose. This is Heather Marshall’s debut novel, and I will watch for more by this author.

When We Had Wings by Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris & Susan Meissner, Saskia Maarleveld (Narrator)

Published October 1st 2022 by Harper Muse

5 Stars: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

When We Had Wings is set in 1941 in the Phillipines. It is the story of a group of nurses that are taken prisoner by the Japanese and their struggle to not only survive, but to carry out their duties to help keep others alive as well. This book is based on the true experiences of nurses dubbed “the Angels of Bataan.” It is the narratives of three of these women, U.S. Navy nurse Eleanor Lindstrom, U.S. Army nurse Penny Franklin, and Filipina nurse Lita Capel who met Army Navy Club in Manilla and became friends.

This is a time and events that I have read little about, so was interested in this story and wanted to learn more. The nurses were all happily working together, when the worst happened and the Japanese Army invaded the Philippines. They were all there to escape tragedies in their past, but they had not idea what was to come. I am always surprised when multiple authors write one book together. Each of the authors wrote one of the main character’s stories and they were seamless. Eleanor, Penny and Lita are sent to a series of different internment camps, and their lives will change forever. They endure and witness inconceivable hardship, they treat patients with little or no medical supplies or medicine. They all suffer physical and mental abuse, tropical diseases and malnourishment, yet their resilience is amazing. Yes, this is a story set during the war with terrible things happening, but it is also a story of friendship and bonds between the nurses, their will to survive and the courage and love they had for each other and the patients they cared for in the camps. It is an inspiring story, to see what they suffered, lived through and watched happen and yet they persevered and survived to meet again. I highly recommend this book to anyone who liked historical fiction, especially those books set during WW2. The audiobook was well narrated by Saskia Maarleveld. She was able to bring all the women to life with their own voices, expression, accents and emotion. I recommend this book in either format.