In 1943, Juliet Defresne's young life is altered suddenly when her family receives an official letter stating that her older brother Tucker is missing in action. She makes a decision to take an intense nursing program and enlist in the military as soon as she graduates high school.
The last letter she receives from Tuck contains a cryptic message about The Secret of Raven Point, which is a stand of trees near their childhood home. Years earlier, she and Tuck had rescued an injured raven, nursed it back to health and returned it to the wild. She has no idea what he is referring to.
Her unlikely quest to find her brother is a maddeningly slow process, but along the way she sees the horror and chaos of war, and learns much about her own inner strengths. She sees nobility in some doctors and nurses, despair in many hapless Italians who are victims by virtue of living where the war is happening, and the agony and grief of the hospitalized soldiers. Juliet is younger than most of the folks she works with but she is industrious and hard working. She is given the responsibility of caring for a Private Barnaby, a young man who had served in the same unit as Tuck! But her "good fortune" is tempered by the fact that he apparently has attempted suicide, and is too traumatized to speak, even after supposedly successful surgery.
The author has done an incredible amount of research, enabling her to tell the tale as confidently as if she had interviewed the actual participants. Her descriptions of winter in northern Italy, the hardship conditions in the hospital units, unexpected encounters with Germans, and even the terror of walking where mines have been buried are incredibly vivid. The horrors of war can wreak havoc on the psyches of the soldiers, but the reader comes to care enormously about the people, both major and minor characters, who are part of this tale.
A great read, The Secret of Raven Point will be referred to as a classic before long, and likely will be a movie even before that! Get it; read it; let's talk about it.