There are so many single words that can describe this book. Deep. Gripping. Raw. Powerful. It’s all of those things.
This is the type of story that brings history to life in a way we comprehend it at its most basic level. We live it. We see it, feel it, taste it, hear it, and touch it. It’s not pretty. It’s not romantic – although there is a thread of romance weaving its way between the tragedies – and it’s not sugar-coated.
This is real. And maybe that’s the best single word to describe it.
The story is told from four different points of view. One is Ukrainian father who is trying to keep his family together and help his neighbors. One is his daughter, the youngest and most head-strong of his brood. One is a Ukrainian teenage girl whose alcoholic father abandons her to the Nazis. And the last is the son of a high-ranking German Nazi officer who only wants to earn his father’s approval.
I’m not going to leave any typical summary of this book. It’s too complicated, too rich, to condense into a 15-second commercial review.
This book should be a must-read for every high school World History course. Instead of teaching the atrocities of WWII as geography, dates, and the names of the generals, we should be teaching what the war did at the level of basic human existence. Maybe if we did. Maybe if more people understood what the Greatest Generation fought – and why – they wouldn’t be so quick to condemn those who would step in quickly to prevent another such atrocity.
This book is fiction, but it’s based on real-life stories. On real people. On real heartache. On real sacrifice. Read it.