Susan May Warren's Nightingale is a tale of grace and forgiveness. Esther, a nurse and single mother, is trapped by a sin she committed, trying to atone for it, and unable to feel clean again; Peter, a surgeon, was trapped in a war and is now held prisoner by the side with which he best associates. They meet through letters first, after Peter tries to save her fiancé Linus as he lay wounded on the battlefield. Linus passes a letter written to Esther for Peter to mail, and through this strikes up a connection with Esther, who writes back for more details. Over the letters their friendship grows, though their faults and secrets are hidden until they finally meet in person.
Warren has a fairly poetical style of writing, which is a nice change after many novels with a more straightforward style. However, I tend to read quickly - sometimes too quickly - so I occasionally lost track of exactly what was happening due largely to the writing. There is also a fair amount of jumping back and forth with memories, so it took a moment or two to figure out where I was in the story - present or past.
This is a mature novel - not that there are scenes of steamy passion, but that it deals with hard subjects, such as a fallen woman trying to make things right. So many of the characters, from Esther to the wounded soldiers to even Peter at times, lack hope. And if one lacks hope, how much faith can one have left? For "faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). Esther does not believe that she can attain forgiveness for her actions, and so many of the soldiers believe there is no life for them anymore, crippled as they are. They have lost both hope and faith. The characters are very flawed, but Jesus came to save such souls as these; His grace proves sufficient.
Prior to reading this novel, I had not known that during WWII there were prisoner of war camps in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, where the German soldiers were held, nor did I give much thought to what happened when the Russians occupied East Germany.
This was a good story, with less-than-well-known but fascinating history behind it, but it is not an easy read - not in the subject matter nor in the writing style. Nightingale demands one's full attention. 4 out of 5 stars