Red Cross Clubmobiles
Luis Alberto Urrea’s recent release Good Night, Irene is outstanding. In a year which has already had multiple great books reviewed, this historical novel based on the operators of Red Cross Clubmobile’s of WW II vies for top position on any 2023 “Best Of” book lists. Adding to the interest for this reader was the author’s note. His mother was one of the Donut Dollies manning the clubmobile’s.
Urrea paints a realistic picture of the impact war has on individuals. The loss of innocence and the very real PTSD the horrors of battle induce. Adding in the atrocities of the Hitler death camps completes the grim visualization that is the background story for Good Night, Irene.
Essence of Good Night, Irene
The novel is a coming-of-age story. And so much more. Irene Woodward volunteers for the Red Cross duty. She has multiple reasons, including the fact she is engaged to a man who has beaten her. Dorothy Dunford is running from loss- loss of family and loss of the family farm. The two women operate the Rapid City Clubmobile with various “Third Girls” thrown into the story line.
The brutality and boredom of war creates a deep bond between Irene and Dorothy. Urrea provides the point of view of both characters as well as that of Hans, Irene’s love interest. This approach draws the reader into the emotions of the characters. And tugs on the heartstrings of the reader.
Good Night, Irene details the connected lives of the two women up to the point of the liberation of Buchenwald. Then Urrea reaches the turning point. The war is almost over yet tragedy still strikes. Irene must live on with her injuries, both physical and of the soul.
Luis Alberto Urrea presents a fictional account illustrating the importance of women during war. The Donut Dollies were not nurses or warriors yet their service was indispensable. War damages the psyche as well as the body.
Good Night, Irene rises to the top of the many women and World War II books I have read with its’ unexpected outcome. Strength in the face of adversity and the ability to embrace life in the face of personal tragedy is a lesson all need to learn.