Author: Ray Kingfisher
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Published Date: August 9th 2016
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction, WWII
My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Sixty-four years ago, Susannah Morgan managed to flee the horrors of the Holocaust. But the memories of that childhood ordeal have proven impossible to sweep away.
For most of her new life spent settled in sleepy North Carolina, the flashbacks have been a lonely obsession—one she has hidden from her family, and about which her heart is torn. Because for all the pain and the cruelty of those terrible years, she harbours sweet memories too, of unexpected friends who risked their own lives in order to save hers. As Susannah’s time on earth draws to a close, her innermost thoughts of those long-gone days become questions—ones that demand answers.
Against the wishes of her children, Susannah returns to Germany and the scene of unspeakable crimes. There she will come face to face with the Holocaust’s terrible, wretched legacy, and will finally make peace with the ghosts of her past.
"Perhaps seeing again how unlucky so many others had been- how a whole generation had had their lives and dreams stolen from them-would remind her how lucky she'd been to escape sixty-four years ago. Of course, in the immediate aftermath of the war those questions had dominated her life. Why had she escaped? What was so special about her? Why had God spared her and not some of the young children? Would she have been better had she been with them? Those thoughts and feelings had controlled her life for many years- and had almost ended it once. But she'd fought and beaten those demons."
When we first get to meet Susannah we see her as an adult who is dying, but as the story goes on we see her as a young girl living in a world that is slowly going to turn against her over the next few years that ultimately almost leaves her without anything in this world. Her family along with her aunt and uncle move to Netherlands to try and escape what was happening, but they can’t stay hidden forever sadly and eventually there luck ran out.
Then we also get to see things from Judy who is Susannah’s daughter and how she is so worried about her mother and just wants to make her last bit of time on earth safe and comfortable.
"She was aware, more than anyone else she knew, that sometimes life was for living-not for taking time to judge and plan and weigh things up."
This story is told in memories and present day format. It is mostly told by the main character Susannah, but at times we also see things from her daughter Judy. This sounds like it would be confusing, but it wasn’t. Instead it made this book have even more layers and even all the more real, as I was reading I couldn’t get enough of it and kept wanting to know what happened to her. While yes we know she makes it through all of the ordeals, but there was still that wanting to know how she made and how she kept going when she was living in a version of hell on earth. I’ve missed reading historical fiction, but I didn’t realize how much until I was about half way through and I realized that I had almost read a book in less than two days which hasn’t happened for a while now. I also really like the writing of this story the author did such a good job and made you feel like you were really there with the character and seeing it all through her eyes. I’m sorry I’m not saying much about the plot, but I can’t because I don’t want to give anything away about what she had to do in order to keep her and her family alive while living through that time in Germany as a Jew. I loved how she was so strong up until she just couldn’t be anymore. Her friendship with Ester was one that was good for both of them and showed that just having a little bit of hope can help you stay alive even when it seems everything in the world is against you.
"You must keep hoping,” Ester says. "You have to do your best to survive and hope that things will get better. Otherwise there's nothing-no point in living."
Overall I would say that this is a book for everyone to read both young and old. It tells the horrors of the holocaust in a very real way without ever going into too much detail that would make the book too hard to read. I hope to read more by this author in the future.
"I've spent too many years feeling guilty about living to feel guilty about dying now."
Thank you to Netgalley and Lake Union Publishing for an e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.