REVIEW: The Women by Kristin Hannah

Posted February 7th, 2024 by in Blog, Historical Fiction, HJ Top Pick!, Review, Women's Fic - Chick-lit / 7 comments


In The Women by Kristin Hannah, Frances “Frankie” McGrath thought her path in life had been mostly chosen for her, as it typically was for women in 1966: to become a nurse (or teacher or secretary) until she marries and has children. But when her older brother Finley finishes at the Navy academy and sets off for Vietnam, Frankie feels bereft. There’s seemingly nothing she can do to aid in the war efforts. Then, at twenty-one years old, she hears words that alters her life forever, that women–not just men–can be heroes. Armed with newfound courage, she enlists in the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) and heads over to Vietnam herself, never expecting to be pushed into ORs in combat zones or to be in the direct line of fire.

“Women can be heroes.”

Frankie’s abilities as a nurse are tested from day one. And she finds she’s not been properly instructed or trained for life in the Vietnamese jungle. Her saving grace is her two bunkmates, Barb and Ethel, who help her navigate the chaos and the dynamics of the base. Before long, Frankie is thriving. She becomes the go-to nurse. She has friendships she can count on. But she also witnesses the daily atrocities of war and is betrayed by more than one soldier. Little did she realize, though, that staying alive in Vietnam would almost be easy when compared to what Frankie will go through once stateside again. From hate and slurs thrown at her once people realize she served in ‘Nam to being belittled by soldiers (who should be her allies) at the VA, she will have to dig deep and figure out how to heal herself before she spirals out of control.

‘She’d joined the Army to find her brother and found herself instead; in war, she’d found out who she really was and who she wanted to be.’

Masterful storyteller Kristin Hannah’s newest novel, THE WOMEN, was a heart wrenching account of not only the heroes of the Vietnam War, but also–and maybe most importantly–the *heroines* who were never truly recognized for their bravery, dedication, and courageousness.

‘Why should she care if no one–including her own family–valued her service to her country? Why should she care that no one remembered the women? She remembered.’

CW: View Spoiler »

It’s difficult to put into words how unbelievably moving THE WOMEN was. Kristin Hannah’s writing evokes emotions like no other author I’ve read so I knew going into this to have tissues at the ready and to block off large chunks of time as I wouldn’t want to stop reading. And this was arguably one of her most important books. A story that *needed* to be told. Because for as much as there is still a shadow over the Vietnam War and the men who gave so much, there are very few accounts told by the women who served every bit as valiantly.

THE WOMEN was a very personal tale of one woman. Frances “Frankie” McGrath, a twenty-one-year-old nursing student when her beloved older brother Finley went into the Navy to fight in Vietnam, decided to follow in his footsteps by signing on to the Army Nurse Corps. That was in 1966. At a time when women were expected to become wives and mothers–not nurses who worked inside combat zone ORs in the jungles of Vietnam. But that’s exactly what Frankie did. And her story, which was filled with as much loss, grief, deception, and hardship as it was camaraderie, love, and close-knit bonds, was absolutely extraordinary.

This will be a tough book for some readers to get through. (Please check the CW if you are sensitive to certain subjects) And I will readily admit that I spent a good amount of time either in tears or outright ugly crying. But the fact that Hannah included real locations, real events, and even true historical names from that time period made this an exquisitely immersive reading experience. Particularly with how she wrote Frankie’s perspective.

It was heartbreaking to feel all of the emotions Frankie endured over the years, beginning during her time overseas to her then struggling to find her way after coming home. But knowing how many women and men went through that same process in real life? It was humbling to get a closer view of it. What I treasured most, though, was how Frankie’s two best friends she met in Vietnam, Ethel and Barb, became sisters who remained a constant in her life afterward. The bond they created, their resilience over the years, and their care for each other was everything.

QOTD: If you know at the start of a novel that it’s going to rip your heart out, do you still read it? Or do you have to be in the right mood/frame of mind for it?

Book Info:

Publication: Published: February 6th, 2024 | St. Martin’s Press |

From the celebrated author of The Nightingale and The Four Winds comes Kristin Hannah’s The Women—at once an intimate portrait of coming of age in a dangerous time and an epic tale of a nation divided.

Women can be heroes. When twenty-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath hears these words, it is a revelation. Raised in the sun-drenched, idyllic world of Southern California and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing. But in 1965, the world is changing, and she suddenly dares to imagine a different future for herself. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path.

As green and inexperienced as the men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is over- whelmed by the chaos and destruction of war. Each day is a gamble of life and death, hope and betrayal; friendships run deep and can be shattered in an instant. In war, she meets—and becomes one of—the lucky, the brave, the broken, and the lost.

But war is just the beginning for Frankie and her veteran friends. The real battle lies in coming home to a changed and divided America, to angry protesters, and to a country that wants to forget Vietnam.

The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on all women who put themselves in harm’s way and whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has too often been forgotten. A novel about deep friendships and bold patriotism, The Women is a richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose idealism and courage under fire will come to define an era.



7 Responses to “REVIEW: The Women by Kristin Hannah”

  1. Amy R

    Thanks for the review.
    If you know at the start of a novel that it’s going to rip your heart out, do you still read it? Or do you have to be in the right mood/frame of mind for it? Need to be in the right mood.

  2. Dianne Casey

    Love Kristin Hannah’s books. Looking forward to reading “The Women”.

  3. Glenda M

    I definitely need to be in the right frame of mind for that kind of novel

  4. psu1493

    Yes, I will read it knowing that it will pull at my heart strings and make me cry.

  5. erahime

    I need to be in the right vibe to truly appreciate the book. Thank you for this enlightening review, Team HJ!