When We Had Wings is inspired by the real-life “Angels of Bataan and Corregidor.” Seventy-seven American military nurses taken prisoner in the Philippines, provided lifesaving care to the civilian POWs in the Santo Tomas and Los Banos Internment Camps where they were held from 1942 to 1945.
The book is a collaboration between historical fiction heavyweights Ariel Lawhon, Kristina McMorris, and Susan Meissner. The story unfolds through the perspectives of Eleanor Lindstrom, who leaves her Minnesota dairy farm for the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps, Penny Franklin, an army nurse escaping personal troubles in Texas, and Lita Capel, who has a Filipina mother and American father and works as a nurse near the base.
Their friendship develops over cocktails in the tropical paradise of Manila, but the Japanese invasion changes everything, leading them from military bases and local hospitals to internment camps and prisons.
Their unwavering determination to keep hope alive, not only for themselves but also for their fellow inmates, is at the heart of this gripping narrative. When We Had Wings is rich in historical detail, bringing the jungles and wartime experiences to vivid life. I was invested in the characters’ fates, sharing their joys, and shedding a tear or two along the way.
When We Had Wings struck me as reminiscent of Angels of the Pacific, which I read earlier. The beginning of the book was corny, but I was impressed as the story unfolded.
I alternated between reading the eBook and listening to the audio version. As always, narrator Saskia Maarleveld rocked it. Honestly, I prefer Susan Meissner’s and Kristina McMorris’ solo work, but this collective effort was interesting and well-done. 4 stars
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions are my own.