13 hours, 49 minutes
Read by Nancy Peterson and Ann Marie Gideon
Published June 2022 by Graydon House Publishing
Berlin, 1930—When a wave of change sweeps a radical political party to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes’s academic husband benefits from the ambitions of its newly elected chancellor. Although Sofie and Jürgen do not share the social views growing popular in Hitler’s Germany, Jürgen’s position with its burgeoning rocket program changes their diminishing fortunes for the better. But as Sofie watches helplessly, her beloved Berlin begins to transform, forcing her to consider what they must sacrifice morally for their young family’s security, and what the price for their neutrality will be.
Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of the many German scientists offered pardons for their part in the war, and taken to America to work for its fledgling space program. For Sofie, this is the chance to exorcise the ghosts that have followed her across the ocean, and make a fresh start in her adopted country. But her neighbors aren’t as welcoming or as understanding as she had hoped. When scandalous rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with Hitler’s regime spreads, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results will tear apart Sofie’s community and her family before the truth is finally revealed.
Another book recommended by a coworker - the same coworker who recommended Every Summer After. She recommended this one for very different reasons. She wanted me to read it because she wanted to talk about it with someone because it was a book that really had her thinking. I'm pretty picky about what books set around World War II that I'll read. It's really got to be a book with an entirely new take on that war and that's a tough thing to do after all these years and all the thousands of books written about it.
Written recently enough that Rimmer can pull readers in by touching on current events, she's able to make readers see how easy it was for everyday Germans overlook what was happening to their country prior to the rise to the top of the Nazi party. Once you can understand that, you begin to understand the fear of having waited too long to stand up to them. And once you understand that, then you begin to understand how a person could make decisions that others would later judge, perhaps without understanding the helplessness of the people making those choices. But then again, where do you draw the line, when have those choices become unforgivable? Here it becomes the classic train line conundrum - would you choose to save one person you love at the risk of many more people you don't know?
Not unexpectedly, this book is full of deep themes - grief, loss of dreams, death, religious persecution, the cost of war, mental illness, marriage, family, and love. Rimmer uses alternating points of view as she moves back and forth in time, bringing Lizzie and Sofie together where their histories collide.
In the end, the question we're left with is what makes a person good or bad? And then she makes us realize how easy it can be for someone to steer our thinking. In the Author's Note, Rimmer, after spending the book leading readers to consider this differently than they might have before they came to "know" the characters, leaves the reader with this - she still believes that the characters had choices to make and that they should be held accountable for those choices, regardless of the reason they made them.
If you choose to read this one (or if you have already), I'd love to hear your thoughts! If you haven't read it yet, I can't recommend the audiobook highly enough. Peterson and Gideon do a terrific job, both pulling off their character's accents marvelously, creating an even deeper impression that we are really getting to know these women.