By Anna Schmidt
Published by Shiloh
Back Cover: Journalist Suzanne follows a story of WWII refugees to Oswego, New York, where she meets Theo Bridgewater, a Quaker dairy farmer seeking to reunite with displaced family. Soon Theo’s fight to spare his relatives the return to Germany becomes Suzanne’s fight as she does everything that the “power of the pen” can muster to help win public sympathy for the cause.
REVIEW: I’m thankful to The Book Club Network www.bookfun.org for the review copy of a book that introduced me to author Anna Schmidt. This is the story of the refuges who found themselves displaced. One thousand of them were brought to America to Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter. “These people have been running for their very lives for the last several months; are now incarcerated…a fence is chain like capped by three taut rows of razor-sharp barbed wire, and it surrounds the entire compound…they are allowed out to work; to go to the grocery store…at the end of the day, those who have escaped the shelter for a few hours return. Amazingly no one has tried to leave for good. No family member on the outside has attempted to orchestrate a permanent getaway. They remained inside and waited…therein lies the real story. When the war ends, FDR’S guests have agreed to leave America and return to what?”
This novel is broken down in three parts. The first part described above takes place in 1944 , in Oswego, N.Y. The focus of the story is Ellis, a news reporter and Theo; a Quaker seeking employment to be close to his family inside the compound, Ilse and Franz Schneider and their daughter Liesl are Theo’s relatives behind bars after their exodus from Germany. Part two talks about the continuation of the war and their situation in the winter 1944-1945 and the Final part three the end of the war summer – Fall 1945.
Joseph Smart is in charge of the shelter. Joseph explains to Ellie and Theo about the people in his care. “The process of reconditioning people who have suffered as these people have is accomplished-if at all- in two stages. The first focus most of course be meeting the immediate need for the basics: Shelter, clothing, food; to attend to their physical needs.”
“And stage two?”
…”It’s a more complex process. It is attending to their psychological needs, their mental health and spiritual well-being ….Life with purpose.” The people in the shelter were in Limbo. They had no home.
Part two explains how these people inside experience one of the worst winters for that part of N.Y. in years. Charites sent supplies, volunteers came, they organized programs and pleaded the refugees cause had stopped coming because of the cold. Things were looking bleak.
Ellie gets approached by Detlef Buch and wants her to write his story. He was with the Gestopo-secret police. She’s doesn’t want to miss this opportunity but how could this man be trusted. Ellie is a new journalist learning her craft and who to trust. Theo is Quaker who wants more out of life than running the family farm. Ellie lives in Washington Theo lives elsewhere. Can love survive?
I love learning about history this way; through intriguing characters I instantly care about. I didn’t know this was the last book in the series until I started to write this review. This story was rich and gripping. It did make me want to go back and read book one and two. This is the first book I’ve read by this author. It won’t be the last. I think this novel would make a good book club pick. There is so much to discuss in this story.
Nora St. Laurent
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