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Bookstore Plus book club Skypes with author Teresa Messineo

November 30, 2018
By TONY MILLER - Special to the News , Lake Placid News

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, the Bookstore Plus Book Club Skyped with author Teresa Messineo to discuss her debut novel, "The Fire by Night." We had a small group on this election night and were able to ask the author several questions about her first novel. "The Fire by Night" is a powerful and evocative debut novel about two American military nurses during World War II that illuminates the unsung heroism of women who risked their lives in the fight-a riveting saga of friendship, valor, sacrifice, and survival.

Teresa Messineo spent seven years researching the history behind "The Fire by Night." She is a graduate of DeSales University, and her varied interests include homeschooling her four children, volunteering with the underprivileged, medicine, swing dancing, and competitive athletics. She lives in Reading, Pennsylvania.

A book club participant commented how "horrifying" it was that the atrocities performed by the Japanese were covered up for sixty years. It was a surprise to everyone that in 2005 this information was revealed and that we are still learning new aspects of the war, and especially of the people involved.

Nurses coming back from the Pacific were under an oath to secrecy for these sixty years. Interestingly, women really did wait the fully sixty years to tell their story. Messineo asked the book club what they thought the life expectancy was in 1945, without factoring in the war. The age was around 54 years old, and so they believed it would guarantee that the twenty-something year old women would not live another sixty years. In fact, the only way we ever found out about it was because many of the women lived to be in their nineties.

While the novel traces the experiences of two war nurses, Messineo said that it originally started with just one character, Jo. She thought it would be more interesting to have two nurses go into two theaters of war in order to get both sides of the story. One book club participant commented that she enjoyed the juxtaposition between the experieces, which moves from chapter to chapter. As a general consensus, the book club enjoyed the well-developed characters throughout the novel.

Most WWII narratives, Messineo discussed, are told from the male point of view. Growing up, she always saw a clean and censored image of the war and she argued that, in doing so, makes the war look more "fun" and less "true." She wanted to have a better understanding of what it was really like during that time.

In Europe, there was no female counterpart in the German army and no female officers. Since German nurses were not part of the military, they did not consider themselves under the Geneva Convention and would take up arms and fight at times. Messineo added that nurses would go 72 hours performing surgeries before getting a break. People did surgeries who were not surgeons themselves - and often used spoons as they did not have the proper tools.

Messineo discussed her writing process and had a few words of advice for aspiring authors. She said to be patient with the editing process. Even though she had edited the chapters hundreds of times, she had a powerful moment where she heard the audiobook for the first time. She'd only heard it in her own head and started crying after hearing someone else tell the stories of these two women.

From the time she writes a chapter to when it comes out in print, years have gone by and it has endured approximately eighteen professional edits. She stressed the importance of being patient during this process. When the book club asked about her future books, Messineo responded that she has more than one in the works; one is based in Tuscany and the other in Poland at the end of the war. She will keep writing in the genre of WWII after spending so much time researching it. A book club member asked how difficult it is to write more than one book at a time, and Messineo said that she dedicates a good amount of time to one and then sets it aside to revisit later for edits. She commented that she gets very involved in her characters - perhaps the reason hearing the audiobook was so moving for her.

On the first Tuesday of every month, The Bookstore Plus Book Club Skypes with an author. On Tuesday, Dec. 4 from 6 to 8 p.m., in lieu of book club, it will host a special Local Shopping Night where you can take 20 percent off your purchase or choose to donate that amount to the Lake Placid-North Elba Historical Society, the Literacy Volunteers of Essex and Franklin Counties, as well as the Mirror Lake Watershed Association. There will be refreshments, hors d'oeuvres, and complimentary gift wrapping and a demonstration on fermentation and samples.

January's book club will take place on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and we will be Skyping with author Stephanie Storey to discuss her novel "Oil and Marble" from 7 to 8 p.m.

 
 

 

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