Sunday Books & Culture

This week’s reviews include complex stories of women grappling with their past experiences in Nicola Solvinic’s “The Hunter’s Daughter” and Kristen Hannah’s “The Women.”

edited by Vanessa Sekinger
BOOKS & CULTURE EDITOR

THE HUNTER’S DAUGHTER

By Nicola Solvinic

Published by Berkley (May 14, 2024)
Hardcover $25.20
Audiobook $14.99

By David Arndt

Anna Koray is a local cop in rural Bayern County, Ohio. She believes she’s a decent sort of individual; a cop who is fair, not corrupt, taking down the bad guys instead of taking kickbacks.  Her self-perception shatters when she is called to a domestic disturbance situation. While there, in a moment of self-defense, she kills the assailant, shooting him several times. This event triggers Anna’s repressed memories, and in Nicola Solvinic’s The Hunter’s Daughter, she slowly starts to remember her unique childhood.

Anna’s real name is Elena Theron. She starts to remember that her father is Stephen Theron and that he loved her dearly. Stephen would take his daughter out to explore the woods, teaching her how to survive, track, and thrive under the dense canopies.

Elena loved this solitary time with her father, despite her mother’s growing distrust of her husband. As father and daughter continued their excursions into the wooded realm, however, Elena came to see a dark side to her father’s motives, and she discovered that he was responsible for a number of local, gruesome murders of young women.

He was arrested and carted off to prison as “The Forest Strangler,” while her mother took Elena to a therapist to repress those incredibly painful and traumatic memories and keep them from surfacing again.

The mental health professional was so successful that only with the killing of the man during the domestic violence disturbance did these memories start to leak out for her conscious to experience and remember.  

To add to the increasing chaos, a number of grisly murders are slowly developing again, eerily similar to the ones from her youth. Anna is completely overwhelmed with possibilities: is this a copy-cat murder, emulating the bizarre deaths that her father committed, or did her father escape prison and come back to continue his macabre work?

In the back of her mind, pushed so far back that her active consciousness barely acknowledges it, she also wonders if the dark and mysterious forest entity her father described to her as a child has come back to continue these morbid murders.

The Hunter’s Daughter is an incredible, dark novel about overcoming one’s past and seeking redemption through actions. Anna was an innocent in her youth, enchanted with the arboreal realm her father introduced her to, until she was corrupted by his evilness.

Now, as an adult, she must find a way to defeat this potentially new murderer, or lose herself to her past in the process.

THE WOMEN

By Kristin Hannah

Published by St. Martin’s Press (February 6, 2024)
Hardcover $18.77
Audiobook $14.99

By Vanessa Sekinger

Frankie McGrath represents and gives life to the experiences of Vietnam nurses in The Women. Her story is inspired by those who served, and Kristen Hannah uses Frankie’s experiences to reveal the voices who were not heard, who learned to hide their experiences, and who hid their trauma in order to manage life “back in the world.”

At the outset, a young Frankie is idealistic and fervently supports her recent Annapolis grad brother and her country. She joins the Army Nurse Corps to do something more with her life than find a husband. She wants her place on her father’s “hero’s wall.”

Joining the Army Nurse Corps will allow her to serve with her brother and experience more than the country club life in southern California, but Frankie’s world shifts significantly with the death of her brother and her subsequent disillusionment. 

Kristen Hannah offers readers an immersive experience of the Vietnam era with details of music, hairstyles, clothes, and societal changes to reflect the aesthetics of the time.

She also offers vivid descriptions of the battle casualties, stress of the hospital, and deaths of young soldiers. Frankie arrives “in country” with her Army issued pumps and pantyhose, but quickly learns that combat boots and boonie hats are what is needed. Hannah allows Frankie to break out of her sheltered life with her skill in the ER, growing confidence, and deep friendships forged in battle and love. 

Frankie returns from Vietnam a different person and to a different world. She does not recognize the path and expectations that she was supposed to have before she left, and she is disappointed by the scorn for her service she receives from her parents and people in general.  She plunges into ways to manage her trauma, but none can truly dull her senses.  

The novel follows Frankie as she recovers and finds purpose. Her tragedies are both professional and personal, and the author does not present easy or trite solutions. Frankie shows that healing can happen with talking, love, friends, purpose, and connection.

Readers will experience Frankie’s story for the history but also for her personal journey. Frankie represents the heroic Vietnam Veteran nurses, and she inspires with her vulnerability and strength. 

Vanessa Sekinger is the editor of the FXBG Advance Books and Culture page and loves to read, spend time with family, laugh, and be outside.

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