In 1943, Irene Woodward abandons an abusive fiancâe in New York to enlist with the Red Cross and head to Europe. She makes fast friends in training with Dorothy Dunford, a towering Midwesterner with a ferocious wit. Together they are part of an elite group of women, nicknamed Donut Dollies, who command military vehicles called Clubmobiles at the front line, providing camaraderie and a taste of home that may be the only solace before troops head into battle. After D-Day, these two intrepid friends join the Allied soldiers streaming into France. Their time in Europe will see them embroiled in danger, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Buchenwald. Through her friendship with Dorothy, and a love affair with a courageous American fighter pilot named Hans, Irene learns to trust again. Her most fervent hope, which becomes more precarious by the day, is for all three of them to survive the war intact.
Urrea pays moving tribute to his mother and her Clubmobile comrades whose wartime service was largely forgotten ... Sweeping ... Morally nuanced ... Urrea has written yet another powerful 'border story' after all: this time about the border between those who live in blessed ignorance of the worst humankind can do and those who keep that knowledge to themselves, often locked in silence.
Genial yet gimlet-eyed ... Kicks off as a boisterous romp, spiked with repartee and good cheer ... Like a tightrope artist, Urrea keeps narrative forces in balance, the slang of naïve America in tension with the atrocities of combat. He pivots off not just historical fiction but also genre romance, as sparks fly between Irene and dashing bomber pilot Hans. Urrea captures the period and its people ... A fleet-footed performance by a generous craftsman, underscoring the contributions made by the Greatest Generation's women.
With cinematic verisimilitude and deep emotional understanding, Urrea opens readers’ eyes to the female Red Cross volunteers who served overseas during WWI ... WWII fiction fans, who have an abundance of options, should embrace Urrea’s vivid, hard-hitting novel about the valiant achievements of these unsung wartime heroines.