The Girl in the Painting

In The Girl in the Painting by Australian author Tea Cooper, Michael and Elizabeth Quinn are orphaned siblings who immigrated from England to Australia in 1862. Their parents had gone on ahead to take advantage of free passage for married couples and left them with an aunt. But the aunt died before the children left and they had to go to a workhouse until time for departure. Then they found, upon arrival, that their mother had died, and the father passed away, too, before long.

The father had established himself in an area of gold seekers. But he didn’t mine gold for himself: he started a business servicing the miners, especially hauling their things around. Michael, a teenager by this time, took over the business and built it up, leaving Elizabeth in the care of a woman they’d met on the ship until he could establish a home for them..

By 1906, the Quinns were wealthy business people and philanthropists in Maitland Town. One of their outreaches was to the local orphanage, in memory of their own time as orphans. One of the orphans, Jane, has an exceptional aptitude for math. The Quinns offer to take Jane in and pay for her education in exchange for her working for their company. She eventually becomes their bookkeeper as well as taking over many of Michael’s duties.

One day Jane and Elizabeth visit a one of their buildings where they’ve invited an artist to hold an exhibition. Suddenly the ultra self-controlled Elizabeth is on the floor, shaking in terror, hat off, mumbling unintelligible words.

After a while, Elizabeth seems back to normal and insists everything is fine. But she’s not back to normal, and everything’s not fine. Odd snatches of memory and terror keep coming back to her mind.

Jane makes it her mission to find out what caused Elizabeth’s episode and discovers some unexpected long-held secrets.

This was an enjoyable book, especially in trying to figure out the mystery behind Elizabeth’s reaction to a painting. It was nice to read something set in a different time and place than a lot of historical fiction (so much of which centers around WWII). We get a picture of what immigrants were up against in those times, not only the English, but also the Chinese who were treated mainly as servants and the lowest workmen.

I loved the cover.

My only minor complaint is that the change between happy and adjusted Michael and Elizabeth and unraveling Elizabeth and brooding Michael seemed rather sudden. I guess that’s an indication that the past was a well-kept secret. But it just seems that, in a literary sense, there would have been more hints throughout the book that everything was not as we thought. I only caught one, and that was only after finishing the book and going back to reread the siblings entry onto the ship taking them to Australia. But, again, it’s a minor complaint and can be explained by the reaction to the painting that set off that aspect of the story.

I had thought this was a Christian fiction book because I bought it from a Christian site. But it wasn’t in any real sense of the word. That’s fine—I don’t restrict myself to Christian fiction. It just meant the book wasn’t what I expected at first. The orphanage Jane comes from is Catholic. Some of the Chinese religious practices are explained when Elizabeth befriends the Chinese man who works for them. But there’s not much other religious content. I would disagree with one statement that it doesn’t matter what gods people prayed to and one person’s thought that a dead relative was looking out for them from heaven.

The book is remarkably clean for modern secular fiction. Michael took the Lord’s name in vain a couple of times and a couple people said “what the hell.”

But, overall, I enjoyed the story.

The Other Bennet Sister

If you are a Pride and Prejudice fan, you might remember middle sister Mary Bennet as being bookish and quiet. In fact, the only significant scene of hers I can recall is when she’s playing the piano at the Bingley ball (the one where all the Bennet family comes across as ridiculous in front of Mr. Darcy) to the point that her father has to pull her away with “You’ve entertained us enough for now.”

Janice Hadlow has crafted a novel from Mary’s point of view: The Other Bennet Sister. Hadlow delves more deeply into Mary’s character and what might have been after P&P ended.

The Bennets had five daughters. Mr. Bennets property is entailed, meaning it will go to a male cousin upon Mr. Bennet’s death rather than a Bennet daughter.

Even though the Bennets are landed gentry, there’s not enough money for any of the girls to have large enough dowries to attract the “right” kind of husband. But most of the girls are pretty enough to attract attention, and their ambitious mother is determined to place them where they can be seen and admired.

Mary, however, is plain. In Mrs. Bennet’s book, that’s almost a sin. At the very least, Mary’s plainness is a great disappointment to her mother. Mrs. Bennet is one of the most annoying characters in literature, and one of my least favorite. Mary’s mother not only has little use for Mary, she constantly berates her daughter. “She had learned from Mrs. Bennet that without beauty, no real and lasting happiness was attainable. It never occurred to her to question what she had been taught.” Mrs. Bennet didn’t even want Mary to get needed glasses because they would further hamper her ability to get a husband.

Since Mary doesn’t have the looks or personality to be “pleasing,” and she loves to learn, she sets herself to study in her father’s library. Perhaps at some point she can discuss books with him. But he demands absolute silence in the library—except when Lizzie, his favorite, is there.

Mary tries other venues, like music, in which to stake her significance, with poor results.

Mary is also in the very middle of the five sisters. The older two are close, as are the younger two, leaving Mary with no one. Lizzie and Jane are not unkind, but they don’t draw Mary in, either.

Since Mary feels invisible, she looks invisible as well, wearing very plain dresses with no color or frill.

The first part of the book covers the events of P&P, but from Mary’s point of view.

Then the book jumps ahead a couple of years. Mr. Bennet had died, and all the Bennet daughters are married except Mary. Mary and her mother go to live with Jane and Mr. Bingley. But the days there are dreary for Mary, with her mother’s constant harping and Caroline Bingley’s sniping remarks. Mary goes to visit Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy for a while, then Charlotte (Elizabeth’s close friend) and Mr. Collins, the obsequious cousin who inherited the Bennet family home. Charlotte and Mary have several talks about life as a plain woman.

Single women did not have many options in those days. Spinsters were pitied and often poor, earning money as governesses or music teachers. Mary is not interested in either profession, but living with one of her sisters is not ideal, either.

Finally Mary goes to London to stay with her aunt and uncle, the Gardiners—the same aunt and uncle Lizzie stayed with in P&P. Things start to turn a corner as Mrs. Gardiner gently draws Mary out and convinces her that it is not drawing undue attention to herself to dress nicely. And the Gardiner’s friend, Mr. Hayward, convinces Mary’s very rational mind that poetry and feeling are valuable.

I loved a lot of Mrs. Gardiner’s advice, some of which had a double meaning.

Sometimes the very best stuff can seem quite plain, until one examines it closely. It is only then that one sees its true quality.

I see plainly enough that you don’t like to make a fuss about dress—that you dislike having attention drawn to you. But there are times when the best way to ensure you are not remarkable is to conform to the expectations of those around you.

There is a middle way between an obsession with one’s appearance and an absolute denial of its importance.

It’s hard to persuade anyone, especially a man, that your regard is worth having if you have none for yourself.

In our house, no-one is obliged to sparkle. Which, I find, makes it far more likely that they might.

There were several things I liked about this novel. One is Mary’s slow “blossoming,” often with one step forward and two back as she makes mistakes.

I thought the author did an admirable job keeping the personality of each of Austen’s main characters close to what they were in P&P. Even though Hadlow’s style is different from Austen’s, the book still had a cozy Regency feel to it.

I had two minor complaints, though. One is that, especially in the beginning of the book, there was a lot more “telling” than “showing.” That improved after the story got into new material after the P&P timeline.

The other complaint is that sometimes there was too much explanation. The narrative would belabor a point long after the reader understood.

Those two aspects made the story drag just a little in places, but not enough to ruin the book.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I wanted to speed ahead to see how things worked out for Mary, but then I didn’t want it to end. Some parts of the book had me in tears.

I listened to the audiobook wonderfully narrated by Carla Mendonca.

Thanks to Lois for putting this book on my radar.

Last Christmas in Paris

Last Christmas in Paris: A Novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb opens with the beginning of WWI. Two friends from childhood, Will Elliott and Thomas Harding, head out for France to fight, enthusiastically expecting the war to be over by Christmas. Then they plan to meet Will’s sister, Evie, and her friend, Alice, in Paris for Christmas to celebrate.

But of course the war drags on much longer than the few months til Christmas.

Evie writes Will and Thomas with all the support and hope she can send. Will is not much of a writer, so Evie gets most of her news about him from Tom.

Over time, enthusiasm and naiveté wanes and the realities of war weigh them all down. Tom gets more discouraged by what he has seen and has to do.

Tom also faces pressure from his father’s illness and business troubles. His father owns and operates the London Daily Times and always planned for Tom to follow in his footsteps. Tom’s interests fall more into a literary and scholarly vein, and he has no interest in the newspaper, which causes tension with his father. But when his father falls ill, Tom is consulted. He can’t do much from France, so he asks his cousin, John, to step in. There has been some longstanding feud between Tom’s and John’s families, but Tom never knew what it was all about, and he has to hope John will keep the paper’s best interests in mind.

Evie, meanwhile, chafes at home. She wants to do something to help, but her mother insists that for girls in her class, the only acceptable activity is aiding her mother with her charities and looking for a suitable husband. But Evie branches out from her protective gilded cage. Though she puts herself at risk, she also grows through her efforts.

The book opens with an aged and ill Thomas planning to go to Paris for Christmas in 1968 to read one last letter from Evie. Most of the book is made up of letters, mostly between Tom and Evie, but also with Will, Alice, their parents, and Tom’s contacts at his father’s business. At different places throughout the novel, the scene switches back to Tom and his current situation and reflections over his life.

This book was not in my Christmas reading plans, not even on my radar until Becky mentioned it. It sounded interesting, and I needed a new audiobook, so I got it. Epistolary novels are not my favorite style of writing, but I have enjoyed some.

I am so glad I listened to this book. I enjoy historical fiction, and not as many books are written about the first world war. I like how this one shared details of everyday life in England as well as on the front.

But mostly I enjoyed the growth of Evie and Tom’s characters and their relationship with each other. From lighthearted banter to lifting each other up from the deepest discouragement, from heartbreak to hope, from misunderstanding to shared poetry, they get to know one another better than they ever had before but almost miss each other in the end.

Though there is some mention of God and prayer, this is a secular book. It has maybe three bad words, but is remarkably clean.

The audiobook is excellently done, with different narrators for the different characters.

This is a beautiful book, and I am so glad I listened to it.

Book Review: A Quilt for Christmas

Sandra Dallas’ novel, A Quilt for Christmas, takes place in Kansas in 1864. Eliza Spooner is trying to keep the farm together with her two children while her husband is away fighting for the Union. An expert quilter, Eliza decides to make a quilt for her husband’s Christmas present to keep him warm and remind him of her love.

When Eliza’s friend, Missouri Ann, learns that her own husband has died, Eliza invites Missouri Ann and her daughter to stay with her in order to rescue them from Missouri’s abusive in-laws.

Then the unthinkable happens. Eliza receives news that Will has also died. She hopes he was buried in her quilt. Her children and her quilting group help bear her through her grief.

Eliza’s beliefs are put to the test when she is asked to shelter an escaped slave. She has already given a husband to the war: isn’t that enough? And what about the danger to her children? Though Kansas is a Union state, slave catchers in pursuit of a reward could be dangerous to anyone in their way.

As the war ends, soldiers in various states of need show up at her door occasionally, asking for a meal or permission to sleep in the barn overnight. Then one day a soldier shows up with Will’s quilt with the surprising, and at first disconcerting, story of what happened to it after Will died.

I picked this up on my friend Susanne’s recommendation and listened to the audiobook version, nicely read by Pilar Witherspoon.

I thought this was a very well-written book. The story shows the hardships women went through alone on a farm in that time. Not only did they have to deal with their husbands’ absence while fighting or his death, they had all the responsibility of the farm on their shoulders. Even though the North won the war, and the widows and wives received some compensation, many lived in poverty. Yet they were generous, helping others in need as much as they could.

I really liked Eliza’s character and could empathize with her struggles..

I appreciated the emphasis in the last few chapters on forgiveness. Eliza’s son is full of hatred against “Johnnies” because they killed his father. But Eliza tries to teach him that the war is over and they are one nation now.

I also appreciated the talk that, even though only men could fight, there was much women could do to help after all.

Though there is talk of God in the book, I wouldn’t call this Christian fiction. One reason is that Eliza credits her dead husband with watching over her. Another is that, in the talk of forgiveness, nothing is brought up about God’s forgiveness or expectation that we forgive others.

All in all, it was a very good book.

Book Review: The Nature of a Lady

In The Nature of a Lady by Roseanna M. White, Lady Elizabeth Sinclair prefers microscopes to ballrooms. She never feels she fits in with her peers. Her best friend is her maid, Mabena. Libby’s brother wants to marry her off to Lord Sheridan so she’s “taken care of.” Sheridan would at least tolerate her eccentricities. But is that she can expect out of life—toleration?

Libby decides to take Mabena on a summer holiday to the Isles of Scilly, where Mabena is from. While she’s away, Libby hopes Sheridan will see that they can’t possibly get married. She rents a cottage and discovers the previous occupant had also been named Elisabeth and had left suddenly with no explanation.

Then Libby begins receiving packages and notes that must be for the other Elizabeth. But one contains a cannonball, of all things.

Then a young man shows up at her doorstep demanding to know where his sister is. And this young man somehow knows Mabena.

Oliver Tremayne is a vicar and a gentleman, but most of the family’s wealth was spent on his brother’s illness. He’s exasperated with his sister, Beth. She was supposed to write him twice a week, but he hasn’t heard from her in two weeks. He’s afraid Beth’s absence is aggravating his grandmother’s dementia. He’d told Beth he’d stay away and giver her her freedom while on Holiday, but he has to make sure she is all right. Imagination his surprise, then, when someone other than his sister opens her door at his knock—someone he has met before, someone with Mabena.

Besides the mysteries of what happened to Beth and how everyone knows Mabena, other unexplained happenings include strange noises on one of the islands, a white figure, odd notations in an old book, pirate treasure, and past princes.

Meanwhile, Libby feels more at home in the isles than she has ever felt in her life. But can she ever convince her brother to let her stay?

One mystery to me: why the cover portrays Libby as dark-haired, when she’s repeatedly described as blonde and fair in the book.

I had never heard of the Isles of Scilly before listening to this book, and I enjoyed learning about them. The puzzles and mysteries in the book were intriguing, though I think I lost a couple of the threads before it was all over–probably a result of listening to the audiobook rather than reading the book, which made it harder to go back and trace some things. I liked the threads about being who God created you to be and the fact that science and faith aren’t enemies (though Libby seemed to accept evolution as fact, which I would disagree with).

I can’t say I enjoyed this story quite as much as Roseanna’s other books I’ve read, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. And I am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Book Review: Hidden Among the Stars

In Austria in 1938, Annika Knopf is the daughter of the caretaker of the Dornbach family’s castle in Hallstatt. She and the Dornbach’s only son, Max, have been friends since childhood. But now they are grown, and she has quietly loved him for a long time.

When Annika discovers Max is hiding treasures of their Jewish friends on the estate grounds, she wants to help. Max wants to protect her as much as possible, but the time comes when he must accept her offer.

Max has never seen Annika as anything but a good friend. He’s in love with Luzia Weiss, a beautiful and brilliant violinist with the local orchestra. The Dornbach and Weiss families have been friends for years. But as Hitler’s forces advance, it’s not healthy to associate with Jews like the Weiss family. Max loves Luzia still and looks for ways to avoid fighting for the Reich and to get Luzia and her family out of Austria before it’s too late. In the meantime, he brings Luzia to the family’s lake castle to hide and asks Annika to watch over Luzia.

In modern times, Callie Randall runs a book store with her sister. Her tumultuous early life, with rejection from both parents and and betrayal by her fiance, has turned her naturally introverted character into someone who enjoys hiding out and is afraid of . . . almost everything except her job and shop.

Callie’s sister gifts her an early edition copy of Bambi, and Callie finds within its pages a list of items in the same script as the book’s font. The name written in the front is Annika Knopf. Callie begins an Internet search, hoping to reunite the book with Annika or someone in her family. But Callie discovers Annika’s story may intersect with Charlotte, the woman who took Callie and her sister in and whom she loves like a mother. Callie yearns to find Annika and restore to Charlotte something of her lost history. But first she must find the courage to step outside her safe haven.

I had read several WWII-era books this year, and was determined to read something from a different time. I love stories from that era, but I was starting to get a little tired of it. However, when I read the description of Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson, I had to read it next. A main character with a personalty similar to mine, a bookstore owner, mention of several classic children’s books, a castle on a lake—all these drew me in. And I am glad. I think this might be my favorite of Melanie’s books so far—and that’s saying something, because I’ve enjoyed all I’ve read from her.

I listened to the audiobook, wonderfully read by Nancy Peterson. Unfortunately, the audio version didn’t include any back matter that books sometimes have about the author’s inspiration for writing, historical research, etc. However, I did find that information on Melanie’s site here. There really is an abandoned castle in Hallstatt! I enjoyed hearing about Melanie’s trip there.

I’m pretty sure this will be one of my top ten books of the year. Highly recommended.

Memories of Glass

Memories of Glass by Melanie Dobson is a time-slip novel. One time line is modern day, and one begins in 1933 but quickly progresses to WWII.

In the older timeline, three childhood friends in Amsterdam are joined by a fourth when Anneliese Linden moves into their neighborhood. Just a few years later, the war has begun. Eliese’s father’s bank was closed because he was Jewish. Samuel works in another bank and sends his sister, Josie, on missions to deliver hidden correspondence in baskets of flowers and jam when she’s not taking classes at the teacher’s college. Klaas—well, no one knows quite where he stands, so they don’t trust him.

Eliese had moved to London for a time. Her friends don’t know that she’s back in Amsterdam with a young son. Her father has a position helping the Nazis, which he thinks will protect him and Eliese. Eliese feels conflicted registering the families that the Nazis round up, but she doesn’t know what she, as one young woman, can do. When she finds that Josie is working at a creche nearby, they form a plan to rescue some of the children.

In the modern timeline, Ava Drake helps her grandmother, Marcella Kingston, with her charitable foundation though the rest of the family disapproves. Ava’s mom had left the family years ago, but when she and Ava’s brother died in a fire, a case worker found Ava’s connections to the Kingstons. The Kingstons all view Ava as an outsider except Marcella, and since Marcella is the matriarch and holds the purse strings, they all go along—at least in public.

Part of Ava’s job is to vet the charities that apply to the Kingston Foundation for grants. In that capacity, she travels to Uganda to visit a man, Paul, who runs a coffee plantation as a means to help Ugandans. Later, Ava travels to the coffee company’s headquarters in Portland and meets Paul’s sister and grandmother, where she finds a surprising connection.

Ava determines that her family won’t heal until its past is brought to light. As she digs into her family history, she finds connections with the young friends from Amsterdam—connections that some of the Kingstons don’t want known.

The part about rescuing children away by deleting their names on the registration forms was a true one, and Melanie tells that story in her afterword. It’s a reminder that even thought it looks like someone is collaborating with the enemy, he or she might have another purpose in mind.

I felt for Eliese here—there were probably many who were in similar positions, stuck “helping” the Reich. If she resisted, she and possibly her father would have been killed. I was glad she found a way to help after all.

I found myself reading parts of this while also reading Women Heroes of World War II, mentioned yesterday. It was interesting seeing some of the activities there fleshed out in the novel.

There were a lot of details to keep up with, and I am not sure I caught all the threads in the end. But I enjoyed the stories of hope and redemption.

Catching the Wind

Melanie Dobson’s Catching the Wind made me want to lay everything else aside to read it. But I also wanted to slow down and savor it and hated to see it end

The story opens with two children playing in 1940 Germany. Brigette Berthold is ten and wants to play nothing but princesses and knights. Dietmar Roth is a few years older and tolerates the game because Brigette is his favorite playmate. Plus he promised her father that he would help take care of her.

When the children’s parents are attacked by the Nazis, Dietmar and Brigette run. If they can make it to the English Channel and get across, Hopefully Dietmar can find his aunt.

After a harrowing journey, they finally do make it to English soil. But then they are separated.

Over 70 years later, Dietmar is a wealthy old man who goes by the name Daniel Knight. He has hired several private investigators to try to find Brigette, with no luck. Now his hopes rest in a reporter, Quenby Vaughn. He has read her stories about refugee children and knows she searches with her heart.

Quenby is working on her own story about a wealthy English woman, Lady Ricker, rumored to have helped and secretly supported the Nazis in the 1940s. Understandably, the woman’s descendants don’t want the story to run and aren’t cooperating.

When Mr. Knight’s arrogant solicitor approaches Quenby with Mr. Knight’s proposal, he’s not forthcoming enough to interest her. But she agrees to meet with Mr. Knight. When she learns that Brigette’s story ties in with the Rickers, she’s hooked.

There are several layers to this story—what happened to Brigette and Daniel, what was going on with Lady Ricker, and Quenby’s family history of a mother who abandoned her, which has crippled her ability to trust.

As one character says, “I believe God uses our pasts, even our regrets to help us and other people find Him.”

I listened to the audiobook (winner of a 2018 Audie award) nicely read by Nancy Peterson. This is one of my favorites of Melanie Dobson’s.

Anne Askew, Reformation Martyr

Only Glory Awaits: The Story of Anne Askew, Reformation Martyr by Leslie S. Nuernberg is historical fiction. Anne Askew was a real person, but the book is written in story form with conversations imagined by the author based on what she knew of the people and situations involved.

Anne lived during the time of King Henry VIII and was even friends with one of his wives, Catherine Parr. Anne was bright and well-educated, especially for a women of her time.

The Reformation was sweeping across Great Britain, with Catholics strongly opposing it. Anne and two of her brothers, Francis and Edward, embraced the opportunity to read Scripture on their own, which Catholicism discouraged. Anne came to believe on the Lord alone for salvation at age eleven. Their father was tolerant but not interested himself. He didn’t want to change his way of life. Francis would bring Reformation literature home to Anne privately.

When Anne was fifteen, her sister was engaged to marry a local Catholic farmer, Thomas Kyme. But her sister, Martha, passed away before the wedding. Thomas and Anne’s father arranged that she should take her sister’s place. Anne pleaded and begged to be released from this obligation: not only did she have no love or interest in Kyme, she was Protestant and he was Catholic. She knew they would never agree about matters closest to her heart.

But Anne was married anyway. The book posits that Anne’s brother, Francis, persuaded her that she was to be subject to her parents and marry Thomas. He later came to regret his influence in this matter.

The marriage was a disaster from the start. Thomas and Anne were different in just about every way possible. If the book is correct, I felt Anne failed here. She treated Thomas as a heretic and argued with him instead of viewing him as a soul who needed Christ.

When Thomas was not home, Anne would meet with other women in the area to try to bring them to the Lord. Thomas forbade her “gospeling” and took her Bible away.

Anne wanted a divorce, and Thomas eventually sent her back home. But, according to the book, Thomas’s priest urged him to bring his wife home and convert her to Catholicism. Anne would not go.

Wikipedia says Anne had two children with Kyme, but the book doesn’t mention them.

She was eventually arrested and imprisoned. She was intelligent and well-versed in Scripture and stunned her questioners by her answers, especially about her views of transubstantiation (the idea that the bread and drink of communion actually become the body and blood of Christ. Catholics believe it does; Protestants believe the food and drink is merely symbolic). Her examiners also wanted her to give names of other women who believed as she did, but she refused.

She was one of only two women tortured in the Tower of London. When the torturer refused to continue and left to ask the king’s permission to stop, Anne’s questioners used the rack on her themselves, tearing muscle and pulling bones out of sockets. Anne was condemned to be burned at the stake at the age of 25. She was so broken and in such pain, she had to be carried in a chair to her execution.

This book doesn’t present Anne as a perfect heroine. She came across as proud and stubborn at times. But her loyalty to her Savior and to truth and her hunger for the Word of God are exemplary.

I thought the author did a fair job. Somehow the Kindle version’s editing fell through in the last 20% of the book, with several obvious mistakes. I hope this isn’t the case for the print version and can be corrected.

The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner opens with an elderly Elise Dove, who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Elise calls her disease “Agnes” and describes her as “a sticky-fingered houseguest who is slowly and sweetly taking everything of mine for her own.”

As Elise mourns the memories she will some day lose, she thinks of a long-ago friend she met in an internment camp during WWII.

Elise was a teenager then, living like any American teenager in Iowa. One day Elise came home from school to find strangers rifling through their belongings while her German parents were seated at the table. Elise thought they were being robbed. In a way, they were. A few statements and actions of her father’s had been misinterpreted, and he was suspected of being secretly involved in Nazi activities. The whole family was eventually shipped to an internment camp in Crystal City, Texas.

There Elise met Mariko Inoue, a Japanese teen girl who sounded every bit as American as Elise. The two became friends for the eighteen months they were in the camp, and even beyond. But their families were repatriated to the parents’ home countries, and the girls lost touch for the next sixty years.

Now Elise’s housekeeper has taught her how to look people up on Google with her new iPad. Elise decides to fly out to the place where she thinks Mariko is, without telling her children about the trip or about “Agnes.”

The present-day Elise’s search is sprinkled with flashbacks of her family’s trials, time in the internment camp and then in Germany, and what happened to them after that.

I had known about internment camps, but didn’t realize German and Japanese Americans were interned together. I also thought of the camps like POW camps. But they were actually like small towns, with schools, stores, jobs, etc. However, there were also fences, barbed wire, and guards with guns.

Both the present and past narratives are compelling. Having had a mother-in-law with dementia, I was a little on edge during the older Elise’s travels, hoping she’d be okay. For that reason, the very end, the last couple of paragraphs, were disappointing. They fit in with a metaphor raised earlier in the book, but they left Elise hanging, which left me without a satisfying resolution. But the rest of the story was very good.

I’ve read Christian or inspirational fiction from Susan Meissner, but this is pretty much strictly historical fiction. The only mention of God I can recall is a passing statement. Sadly, there are a few bad words, which I was disappointed to see.

I very much enjoyed Kimberly Farr’s narration of the audiobook.

I’ve read lots of WWII fiction, but this is the first I’ve read that is partially set in an internment camp. How about you? Have you read anything about the camps?