Genre: Historical Romance
Tolsma’s writing is vivid and powerful. I loved her previous novel, Snow on the Tulips, and enjoyed this one as well. I especially appreciate that this was inspired by two separate true accounts, and that it presented a unique perspective of the normal German citizens who were also impacted by this dark period of history.
German-American Gisela is in East Prussia visiting family when the Soviet army begins to invade. Her cousin, Ella, urges Gisela to flee with her (Ella’s) two young girls, while she stays behind to nurse their sick grandpa. Gisela heads to Berlin, hoping to also collect her mutti before traveling south to safety. On the way she encounters a British POW escapee, and pretends to be married to him in order to save his life. As their group grows, they seek every option to survive the attack of the Russians, British, and American armies, praying the war will be over soon.
The story is true to history: touching on the violence, open hangings of the “cowardly,” gruesomeness, sexual assault, hunger, emotional struggles, and other horrors of living in a war zone. Yet it is also a lighthearted romance with the subtle spiritual motifs of trusting God in the midst of chaos and heart-wrenching loss, forgiving ourselves, and allowing God to bring healing to our deepest pains and regrets.
For the most part I connected really well to the characters–two of the secondary characters (Kurt and Audra) were mildly annoying to me at times, though not so much that it caused me to like the book any less–but I engaged well with Gisela, and particularly enjoyed the humor added by two elderly, senile, traveling companions. I also felt that the story concluded a bit suddenly in terms of the physical war plot, although the “feel good” epilogue wrapped up the emotional story nicely.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.