In the Fall They Leave, the fourth novel from Joanna Higgins (Waiting for the Queen), is a tense and engrossing work of historical fiction, following a young nursing student in Belgium as she navigates the anxiety and uncertainty of continuing her studies after the start of World War I. Still reeling from her failure as a pianist at a prestigious music academy, 19-year-old Marie-Thérѐse Hulbert is just beginning to feel competent in caring for patients when Germany invades Brussels. Suddenly, her exams are the least of her worries. She's flooded with anxiety over whom she can and cannot trust and how she can appear to cooperate with German demands while also keeping high-stakes secrets that could mean life or death for her patients, as well as for herself and her family.
Through it all, Marie-Thérѐse is inherently brave and conscientious, her loyalty to those she cares about unwavering. Her integrity compels readers to follow her through these cold, windswept scenes. It's also hard not to root for Marie-Thérѐse when she falls in love with a German lieutenant who seems thoughtful and kind but may have ulterior motives. Higgins positions the push and pull between the couple and Marie-Thérѐse's inner turmoil against the backdrop of a bloody international conflict that remains one of the worst the world has seen. After what Marie-Thérѐse has experienced, it is difficult to imagine she will ever fully heal, but she is nothing if not resilient, even if she and the world are forever changed. --Angela Lutz, freelance reviewer