After a concentration camp survivor attracts the romantic interest of two men, she makes discoveries about life, love and forgiveness in this debut novel.
As a Jew in Nazi Germany, Klara Werner not only loses her mother, father and brother to the camps, but also her sense of identity. After she’s dragged from a pile of concentration camp corpses by the besotted Sgt. Sam Rosstein, she wakes up in an American hospital and discovers that she’s also caught the eye of her attending physician, Dr. Thomas Compton. Sam pays her regular visits at her bedside, and eventually Klara opens up to him completely. She reveals that she wasn’t a political prisoner as her uniform indicated, but the former love slave to an influential Nazi, who promised he would free her family in exchange for sexual favors. However, Thomas isn’t about to let Klara go to his Jewish rival, Sam; instead, he arranges to have the soldier abruptly shipped out and then steals his goodbye letter to Klara. Feeling abandoned, Klara agrees to marry Thomas, who doesn’t realize she’s Jewish. They return to Thomas’ Evangelical Christian home in the Southern United States, where Klara discovers she’s pregnant with Sam’s child. Will Klara be able to keep up the pretense of being a Christian in her new home? And how will Sam react when he discovers that the love of his life has married another man? The story’s dramatic possibilities are hampered by its tendency to tell rather than show its characters’ feelings: “How far have I fallen! Me, the once-proper young lady of respected Jewish Berliners….I am contemplating the loveless seduction of a man who has been nothing but kind to me.” However, Berman does convincingly convey the agony of a young woman treated horribly by circumstance. Klara’s callous but ultimately sensible adaptation to the world around her makes her a captivating protagonist. Overall, the author refuses to demonize any of her principal characters, and successfully portrays the heartbreak of living in a world where evil exists.
A successful historical novel about the redemptive power of remaining true to oneself, no matter what the cost.