Good Night, Irene

Little, Brown. May 2023. 416p. ISBN 9780316265850. $29. F
The story of the Clubmobile Corps is not well known, and Pulitzer Prize finalist Urrea (The Hummingbird’s Daughter) gives its members the epic telling they earned in this World War II–set historical novel. Fleeing an abusive fiancé in 1943, Irene Woodward needs to get out of New York City, so she joins the Red Cross as a member of the Clubmobile Corps. The primary mission of the Corps is to provide comfort and a piece of home to the GIs in Europe, and as part of the Corps, Irene will serve sinkers (donuts) and coffee from a mobile food truck. In the corps, Irene meets Indianan Dorothy Dunford, who has lost her parents to illness and her brother in the war and needs to find her purpose again. The Red Cross sends Irene and Dorothy first to England and then to the Western Front in France. While Irene and Dorothy see firsthand that war is hell, they also experience romance and camaraderie and form a lasting friendship. Witnessing Buchenwald changes them both forever and sends them on a path that affects the rest of their lives.
VERDICT Based on his mother’s wartime service, Urrea’s novel is a deeply moving masterpiece of war, trauma, and unsung heroes. This book is one to be savored.
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