Friday, November 1, 2002

The Hope Before Us: Conclusion to World War II Series

Elyse Larson's "Women of Valor" series concludes with its third installment, The Hope Before Us.

Set in France during the fall of 1944, this book looks at France shortly after the Occupation, the early days of liberation. The war is not over yet, and indeed the characters see action that would later be known as the "Battle of the Bulge," but the Germans are generally on the run. Into this setting come Marge and Em Emerson, two sisters ages 24 and 22, from Oklahoma. Marge is a nurse recently assigned to a hospital near the front lines, in France near Belgium. Em works as a press correspondent in Paris, but soon takes on additional employment with the OSS, or Secret Services.

Marge's life gives the view at the front lines -- the horrors of war, including its impact on civilians. Yet she meets David, who as a conscientious objector serves as a medic, and is inspired by his godly attitude.

Em lives the life of danger, often taking chances in her drive to get good stories -- which she usually does. Through her the reader learns about the many risks taken by ordinary citizens of France as they worked for the Resistance movement. With her winsome style, she even witnesses the beauty of the Alps by bicycle as she traces routes taken across enemy lines.

The story alternates between Marge's nurse work and Em's adventures, providing more romance in Marge's story and more edge-of-your-seat adventure through Em's life. After establishing Marge's routine life, as contrasted with Em's journalistic adventures, action builds for an exciting, tense climax when the two sisters are united and together perform a daring rescue.

History covered includes the war in Europe from the fall of 1944 until January of 1945, a time when the Nazis continue retreating from France. The Allies have liberated much of France and now push into Belgium as well as into Germany, winning Aachen in October. But then the Germans pushed back in December, suddenly reclaiming areas previously liberated, in what would become known as the Battle of the Bulge.

Though the last in a three-part series, The Hope Before Us reads as a stand-alone novel. The previous two books in the series featured different main characters, and now a new set of "women of valor" are introduced for this separate story. After reading this book, I look forward to the previous two books, and wish there could be additional stories. With the two sisters still involved in the war at the book's end, January 1945, so much more could still be told.

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