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Authors: Jennifer Vanderbes

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There is a pause between arias, and he turns to her.

“Do you like it?”

“I love it,” she says.

“Oh, good.” The music begins again, and quietly, almost inaudibly, he says, “I’m just so glad you’re here.”

“I’d have hiked in the cold,” she whispers to him.

He smiles.

She will remember this moment many times in her life, and when, at age sixty-eight, Willard dies in his sleep, and Claire calls with the news, it is here, in this room, listening to his music, that Juliet will picture him.

And in the hour of her own death, at eighty-six, she will think again of Willard and of Tuck, of her father and Pearl, and of all the young men she saw pass away decades earlier. “I’m coming,” she will say as her breath weakens, and her children beside her will
wonder to whom she is speaking.

But here, now, they are young still, and the lamplight is beautiful, the music perfect, and they are beside each other, sitting contentedly.

“Friends?” she asks.

He turns and clasps her hand
between his. “The best.”


This is a work of fiction drawing heavily on fact, and so it may be useful to note where I’ve chosen, for the purposes of my story, to veer from historical accuracy. The town of Charlesport, South Carolina, is a fictional locale based loosely on Beaufort, South Carolina, where I once lived; the movements of Tuck’s division (noted as the 88th in the novel) are in fact a compendium of the movements of both the 88th and the 91st Divisions of the US Fifth Army; and none of the battles or troop movements mentioned are intended to correlate with the real-life actions of any particular unit. Artillery was used in the Battle of Pisa. The field hospital depicted is fictional, as are its movements, although the flyer discovered by Mother Hen is an actual German propaganda leaflet reproduced in Leon Weckstein’s
Through My Eyes: 91st Infantry Division in the Italian Campaign, 1942–1945
. There were approximately fifty thousand desertions by American soldiers during World War II. Forty-nine were sentenced to death. Only one sentence was carried out: Private Edward Donald Slovik was the first and only American soldier to be court-martialed and executed for desertion (in January 1945) since the Civil War.

I began researching this book ten years ago, long before I knew what, exactly, the story would be, and along the way many texts were returned to libraries before I could dutifully note their titles. Of the books that remain in my possession, I’m deeply indebted to
Foot Soldier: A Combat Infantryman’s War in Europe
by Roscoe C. Blunt, Jr.;
Reflections of One Army Nurse in World War II
by Gladys Bonine;
The War North of Rome: June 1944–May 1945
Thomas R. Brooks;
Lingering Fever: A World War II Nurse’s Memoir
by LaVonne Telshaw Camp;
The 1st Field Hospital: The Experiences of T-4 Robert U. Shepard
by D. A. Chadwick, Robert Shepard as consultant;
My Darling Margy: The World War II Diaries and Letters of Surgeon Charles Francis Chunn, MD
edited by Celeste Chunn Colcorde;
The Duration and Six Months: Letters of a World War II Army Nurse
by Shirley Coressel;
Hospital at War: The 95th Evacuation Hospital in World War II
by Zachary B. Friedenberg;
The 92nd Field Hospital: A Surgeon’s Memories of WWII
by John C. Gaisford, MD;
Roll Me Over: An Infantryman’s World War II
by Raymond Gantter;
Nurses at the Front: Writing the Wounds of the Great War
edited by Margaret R. Higonnet;
Sixty Days in Combat: An Infantryman’s Memoir of World War II in Europe
by Dean P. Joy;
Quiet Heroines: Nurses of the Second World War
by Brenda McBryde;
And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II
by Evelyn M. Monahan and Rosemary Neidel-Greenlee;
Love and War in the Apennines
by Eric Newby;
Our War for the World: A Memoir of Life and Death on the Front Lines in WWII
by Brendan Phibbs;
A Half Acre of Hell: A Combat Nurse in WWII
by Avis D. Schorer;
Bedpan Commando: The Story of a Combat Nurse During World War II
by June Wandrey;
Through My Eyes: 91st Infantry Division in the Italian Campaign: 1942–1945
; and
From Anzio to the Alps: An American Soldier’s Story
by Lloyd M. Wells.


A million thanks to Dorian Karchmar and Simone Blaser, and to the brilliant team at Scribner: Whitney Frick, Alexis Gargagliano, Nan Graham, and Kelsey Smith.

Along the way, this book was made markedly better by invaluable feedback from Nick Arvin, Eric Bennett, Sarah Funke Butler, Justin Cronin, the amazing Kurt Gutjahr, Krista Parris, and Dr. Sebastian Schubl. Thanks to Damiano Bellafri and Harald Franzen for lightning-fast translation services.

I will be eternally grateful for the time and space provided by the MacDowell Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Hambidge Colony in Georgia, and the Allen Room at the New York Public Library. The Guggenheim Foundation provided crucial funding while I found my way with this novel.

As always, I am indebted to the kindness of the Vanderclan: Modur, Papito, Jefe, Amy, and my three-foot-tall roommate, who miraculously slept through the night so that I could write into the darkness. I hope one day she will read this and be proud.


is the author of the novels
Easter Island and Strangers at the Feast
, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Public Library Cullman Fellowship. Her writing has appeared in the
New York Times
, the
Wall Street Journal
, the
Washington Post
, and
and has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in New York City with her daughter.




Easter Island

Strangers at the Feast

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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Vanderbes

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN 978-1-4391-6700-7

ISBN 978-1-4391-6705-2 (ebook)




Part I: 1941–1944

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Part II: 1944

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Part III: November 1944

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Epilogue 1947

Author’S Note


About Jennifer Vanderbes

BOOK: The Secret of Raven Point
12.42Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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