Our Duty opens with a group of nursing students sunbathing on the roof of their apartment. Pauline Garrity, aka Polly, has a little bit of fun and decides to sunbathe sans robes. While this stirs some of the girls up a bit, others know Polly is only being Polly. When a fighter plane does a fly-by on a training mission, Polly has a little more fun.
Here’s a story of World War II with a slightly different bend. Rather than focus on the horrors of what was happening in the trenches, Gerri Hilger centers her novel around Polly and her close-knit group of friends who are attending nursing school together. Our Duty is a novel for fans of lighthearted historical fiction with a sprinkling of cozy romance and a thread of Christianity.
The first part of the novel follows Pauline Garrity, aka Polly, alongside her close friend Aggie and their schoolmates as they navigate their studies and personal lives while attending nursing school in the early 1940s. There are inter-peer rivalries to contend with, gossip that occasionally falls into the mean-spirited category, and the looming presence of the war which begs the question—which of the young women will choose to enlist after graduation?
Polly and friends persevere through nursing school and graduate with their degrees, and then each promptly goes her own way. Aggie enlists in the service while Polly stays in the States and works in a maternity ward, often calling on the Lord to give her strength as she helps new mothers whose husbands have enlisted. Life continues on, however, despite the war, and Polly soon finds herself becoming more and more involved with a charming young man named Johnny.
In Our Duty, Hilger tackles the hefty topic of why some people enlist while others try their hardest to stay home. It should be noted that all of the characters’ reasons for avoiding war have everything to do with family responsibilities and less to do with worrying about whether or not one may die as a result of enlisting.
Our Duty is largely based on the lives of the author’s family and ends with Hilger discussing what happened to the characters after the story’s end as well as her family’s ties to one another and the war. And while the book focuses on the nurses, the war is never out of the minds of our characters, as letters and news come in detailing the horrors and heartaches of life and death on the battlefields of war. In the end, Hilger has gifted us with a WWII historical fiction with a lighthearted side and an enjoyable sweet romance on the side.