The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 240 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch is carnal and grotesque in ways that are vastly unsettling and may be tough to read for many.  Told from a variety of artistic points of view, the story begins with a young girl whose world is literally atomized in war-torn Eastern Europe and the photograph of her that makes the career of one narrator.  While the girl and the photo play a major role in the story, they are not the crux of Yuknavitch’s story.  They are merely a vehicle through which she explores the selfish need for artistic expression and the distortions that emerge.

“We are who we imagine we are.
Every self is a novel in progress.
Every novel a lie that hides the self.
This, reader, is a mother-daughter story.” (pg. 11)

The narration is urgent, like a slapshot in the gut at nearly every turn. While the writer’s friends and family seek to save the girl from the life she has been thrown into after the death of her family, it is clear that a birth has happened. It is the birth of art within the gruesome world the girl inhabits, and it is the birth of connection beyond art and family ties.  The girl reaches from within and from without to recreate her life to be reborn — not as a victim, but as a warrior.

Pity the small backs of children, he heard her saying.  They carry death for us the second they are born.” (pg. 59)

The stories that begin at the heart of this girl, like the spokes in a wheel, turn and turn, spiraling out of control on a wagon that is hurtling toward a cliff, unless someone can stop it or redirect it. Will these players be destroyed? Will they be saved? Can this “blast particle … looking for form” endure the weight of these stories and their implications?

The Small Backs of Children by Lidia Yuknavitch pushed the envelope repeatedly, searching for the edge and spilling over it with its haunting images, desperate characters, and narcissistic art-making. It is the crucible of pain and suffering that molds us and pushes us to become, to move beyond the child of mere potential into something more tangible that can be criticized and critical. This crucible does not define us, however, unless we allow it to, and Yuknavitch is shoving readers toward a greater understanding of art and themselves.

**Beth Kephart reviewed this book, and I just had to get it from the library.***

About the Author:

Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of the widely acclaimed memoir The Chronology of Water and the novel Dora: A Headcase. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, the Iowa Review, Mother Jones, Ms., the Sun, the Rumpus, PANK, Zyzzyva, Fiction International, and other publications. She writes, teaches and lives in Portland, Oregon with the filmmaker Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son Miles. She is the recipient of the Oregon Book Award – Reader’s Choice, a PNBA award, and was a finalist for the 2012 Pen Center creative nonfiction award. She is a very good swimmer.





Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 336 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien, which was the final read-a-long for the 2014 War Through the Generations challenge, is the story of soldiers in Vietnam as they struggle with courage and honor and fate.  Paul Berlin appears to break from reality and is the daydreamer of the group, but he latches onto the dream of Cacciato, who claims you can walk out of the Vietnam War, across Asia and into Europe, all the way to Paris.  In a series of chapters that alternate from reality to fantasy and back again, O’Brien examines what it means to be a soldier in war, struggling to process all the dangers and lulls in danger around them.  Berlin is an observer, but he is quaking in his boots when he arrives.  However, he has a plan, stay on the outside of everything, don’t get attached, and he’ll make it through.

“They were all among the dead.  The rain fed fungus that grew in the men’s boots and socks, and their socks rotted, and their feet turned white and soft so that the skin could be scraped off with a fingernail, and Stink Harris woke up screaming one night with a leech on his tongue.  When it was not raining, a low mist moved across the paddies, blending the elements into a single gray element, and the war was cold and pasty and rotten.”  (page 1)

As O’Brien blends reality and fantasy, readers will want to believe in the fantasies to cling to the adventure story, which also perilous seems less dire than trudging through rice paddies and jungles in search of the enemy.  There is that pervasive feeling throughout the book of being caught — a hopelessness of the situation and a desire to escape it by any means necessary.  When the only purpose to war is the winning of it, morale gets bogged down in the failures and the confusion, at least this is the case for Berlin and his squad members.

Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien is O’Brien at his best, using magical realism to bring forth the realities of the war for soldiers and their internal struggles.  A complex novel with a great deal for book clubs to discuss about duty, honor, courage, and self-preservation.  O’Brien is considered one of the best novelists writing about the Vietnam War and this book proves his skill and compassion.

About the Author:

Tim O’Brien was born in 1946 in Austin, Minnesota, and spent most of his youth in the small town of Worthington, Minnesota. He graduated summa cum laude from Macalester College in 1968. From February 1969 to March 1970 he served as infantryman with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, after which he pursued graduate studies in government at Harvard University. He worked as a national affairs reporter for The Washington Post from 1973 to 1974.

34th book (Vietnam War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Reading Challenge Roundup

Isn’t this time of year when we assess where we are with our reading?  I’ve taken stock and here are the hard numbers.  I enjoyed most if not all of the books I read this year, and I cannot wait to see what 2015 has in store for me.

2014 War Through the Generations Challenge With a Twist

  • signed up for Expert: Read 2+ books for each war for a total of 12 books
  • read 34 (including 2 per war)

2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

  • signed up for Renaissance Reader – 10 books
  • read 38

2014 Portuguese Historical Fiction Challenge

  • signed up for Afonsine – 1 to 3 books
  • read 1

Dive Into Poetry 2014

  • signed up for Dive in and read 7 or more books of poetry
  • read 24

New Authors Challenge 2014

  • signed up for 50 New-to-Me Authors
  • read 84

2014 European Reading Challenge

  • signed up for Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) — at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.
  • read 28 (Italy, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Austria, Scotland, England, Crete, Greece, Ireland, France, Germany, Portugal, Monaco, Hungary, Norway)

Ireland Reading Challenge 2014

  • signed up for Shamrock level: 4 books
  • read 4

How did you do on reading challenges this year?

Read-a-Long of Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien

In the final read-a-long for the 2014 War Through the Generations, we will return to a favorite author of mine — Tim O’Brien.

We’ll be reading Going After Cacciato, which I haven’t read since sometime shortly after college.  It will be only the second time I’ve read it, and I hope that some of you will join us for your first reading of this novel about the Vietnam War.

Since the holidays are approaching for many of us, we’ve split the book into two parts for the read-a-long to make it easier.

Discussion questions will be posted on Fridays for the designated chapters.  Here’s the reading schedule and discussion dates:

  • Friday, Dec. 12: Discussion of Chapters 1-24
  • Friday, Dec. 19: Discussion of Chapter 25-the end

We’re wrapping up another year at War Through the Generations, and we’re hoping that you’ll join us for the final read-a-long.

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman

Source: Penguin
Paperback, 384 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman is an emotional tale of finding the strength to do what’s right even if it places you, your dreams, and your family in danger.  Elodie Bertolotti is a young, virtuoso with the cello, and her father teaches violin at the local music school in Verona, Italy.  She has the musical talents of her father, and they often connect with just the music around them or speak through minimal glances and facial expressions.  But like her mother, she can memorize things instantly. She has the best gifts for a musician — the ability to memorize entire scores and the ability to play them with passion.  However, she is mild compared to her friend, Lena, who is outspoken against the Fascists and eager to get involved in the Italian resistance.

“His playing was the lullaby of her childhood.  She knew when he played Mozart that he was savoring good news; when he was nervous, he played Brahms; and when he wanted forgiveness from her mother, he played Dvorak.  She knew her father more clearly through his music than she did through his words.”  (page 19)

The Venetian blood running through Elodie’s veins and her gift of memorization are things that she had little thought for beyond her music, but she soon realizes that they can be of great use.  Richman has created a novel in which a young music student finds that she’s passionate about more than the scores she learns in class; she is eager to be noticed by Luca who catches her eye, but she also wants to take action against the Nazis who have come to lay a heavy hand on her country.  Things are not what they once were in Verona, and she must learn how to either blend into the background or stand up for what she believes in.

The Garden of Letters by Alyson Richman is stunning, and a real treat for those interested in the Italian resistance during WWII.  But the novel also offers a coming of age story and a story of second chances.  Richman has created an emotionally charged, suspenseful, historical fiction novel that at its heart speaks of redemption and new beginnings.  Weaving together music, art, books, and war, Richman’s story transcends time through the lives of her dynamic characters.  Another for the Best of List 2014.

About the Author:

Alyson Richman is the internationally bestselling author of: The Garden of Letters, The Lost Wife, The Last Van Gogh, The Rhythm of Memory (formerly published as Swedish Tango), and The Mask Carver’s Son. Her books have received both national and international critical acclaim and have been translated into eighteen languages.  The Lost Wife was nominated as one of the best books of 2012 by the Jewish Journal of Books and was The 2012 Long Island Reads Selection.  The novel is now a national bestseller with over 200,000 combined print/ebook copies sold and is in development to be a major motion film. Her forthcoming novel, The Painted Dove, centers around the French courtesan Marthe de Florian and the mystery of her Paris apartment that remained locked for 70 years.  It will be published by Berkley/Penguin in September 2016.  A graduate of Wellesley College and a former Thomas J. Watson Fellow, she currently lives with her husband and children in Long Island, New York.

37th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





33rd book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.





28th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Italy)

Join Us for the Going After Cacciato Read-a-Long

As part of the War Through The Generations 2014 Reading Challenge with a Twist, we’ll be hosting our final read-a-long in December for the Vietnam War.

For December, we’ll be reading Going After Cacciato by Tim O’Brien.

Discussion questions will be posted on Friday for the designated chapters. Here’s the reading schedule and discussion dates:

  • Friday, Dec. 12: Discussion of Chapters 1-24
  • Friday, Dec. 19: Discussion of Chapter 25-the end

We’re breaking up the book into just two weeks given the holidays at the end of the month, and we hope that you’ll carve out some time to read along with us.

Northern Lights by Tim O’Brien

Source: Personal library
Paperback, 372 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Northern Lights by Tim O’Brien, which was our November and final book club pick of the year and a re-read for me, is the author’s first book, and not my favorite.  The story is about two brothers — Perry and Harvey — and one went to Vietnam and the other stayed home and got married.  Perry works for the agriculture department in Sawmill Landing, Minn., which is a small dying town with very few farmers left.  Heavily populated by Swedes, Finns, and Germans, the town has gone through periods of prosperity and periods of fallow ground.  Harvey is set to return from the war, and he’s altered in more than one way.  While O’Brien has crafted a story of brothers who were always different from one another — Harvey, the bull, considered the outdoorsy and confident brother, and Perry, the book smart and self-conscious brother — the story slowly unwinds to show just how false those perceived differences were.

“They call it a dying town.  People were always saying it: Sawmill Landing won’t last another decade.  But for all the talk, Perry never saw the death, only the shabby circumstances of the movements around him.  It was melancholia, seeded in the elements, but he had no idea where it started.”  (page 65)

When his brother returns, there is a heaviness that settles on the house, a house their father lived and died in and a house that was often filled with tension between the three men.  With Grace, Perry’s wife, in the house, there is a lightness from her womanly touch as she tries to keep the peace and make Harvey feel at home.  But then there is Addie, a young lady who flirts endlessly and teases all the time.  She’s an enigma, flirting with married Perry and with single Harvey, but it is clear that she’s never serious.  She likes the games.  The moral tension is palpable throughout the novel in whether Harvey and Perry are flirting with Addie, or whether Perry has to overcome his fears and hunt in the woods as his brother did with their father.

Rather than focus on the Vietnam War, Northern Lights by Tim O’Brien is a look at the home front after the soldier returns home and tries to fit back into society, as well as the brother’s struggle with seeing his own brother so changed.

***Unfortunately, due to car issues, I missed this meeting with the book club.  A meeting I was really looking forward to.***

About the Author:

Tim O’Brien was born in 1946 in Austin, Minnesota, and spent most of his youth in the small town of Worthington, Minnesota. He graduated summa cum laude from Macalester College in 1968. From February 1969 to March 1970 he served as infantryman with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, after which he pursued graduate studies in government at Harvard University. He worked as a national affairs reporter for The Washington Post from 1973 to 1974.  Here’s the reading group guide.

36th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.






32nd book (Vietnam War) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert

Source: Gihon River Press
Paperback, 204 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert is a collection of heart-warming, terrifying, and inspiring stories of Polish resisters against the Nazi Third Reich during WWII.  These four women have tension filled tales to tell, and they are full of bravery, luck, and serendipity.  As stated in the introductory pages and the brief history on Poland and its Jewish people, Poland was often conquered and victimized and in some areas of the nation, there was rampant antisemitism.  In fact, the country was often treated like a spoil of war, and that did not change when the Nazis began expanding their reach across Europe.  Several of these resisters mention in their stories how Jews are often considered weak and meek, but their stories clearly illustrate that these women engaged in all kinds of resistance against the Nazis and that they were not alone in their fight.

“Before the 1939 German invasion, Poland’s population of approximately 35 million included almost 3.5 million Jews, more than any other European country.  In fact, for many centuries in Poland had been considered the heart and center of Europe’s Jewish population.  When German occupation of Poland ended in 1945, over 6 million Poles–approximately half of which were Jews–had been annihilated.”  (page 17)

Manya Feldman, a nurse and fighter during the war, was considered the “crazy Jewess” when she was infected during the war and unable to walk and move.  She was forced at an early age to decide to flee the ghetto into the forest or stay with her mother and young sisters, but her decision left her haunted forever.  After joining the Kovpak partisans in the forest, she was again separated from her brother and father, but she had little time to wallow as she was expected to not only engage in village raids for supplies, but also nurse the wounded and sick.  Faye Schulman was a nurse, fighter, and photographer, and her skills as a photographer saved her from Nazi punishment more than once.  She even noted, “We all had to be off the streets at dark, which was difficult in winter when darkness came so early.  It was especially challenging for teenagers who wanted to socialize or carry on romances at night.  … I had no idea that this sneaking around would soon become a skill that would keep me alive.”  And at one point, she even found herself near the camp of the Bielski partisans, who were depicted in the movie Defiance.

“When we arrived, we were astounded to see that my possessions had been neatly packed in several boxes, and placed out on the sidewalk.  Everything was just sitting there. Apparently someone in the house had figured out that I’d be in on this partisan raid, and in the chaos of a war zone, took a chance on helping me.”  (page 81)

Lola Lieber was a young woman between childhood and womanhood who was forced to grow up quickly when the Nazis came to Poland.  Her birth outside Poland in Czechoslovakia even became an asset, not only because she knew different cultures and languages, but because the Nazis spared her and the family for a time.  As they put their artistry to the test in forging documents, Lola’s life and that of her family was constantly hanging in the balance.  Miriam Brysk was a little girl who dressed as a boy, and she took to heart the discipline she had been taught as a young girl: to always listen and follow orders.

Women of Valor: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich by Joanne D. Gilbert is a fantastic look at how these women used their intelligence and the skills they had since childhood to resist the Germans, to fight them through guerrilla tactics, and evade capture and death.  Gilbert does a great job of setting up each story so that the reader knows how these women fared after the war and where they live now.  And as many of these women, men, and soldiers are passing on, these stories from WWII grow ever more important to collect because they remind us that people’s courage should never be under-estimated.

About the Author:

Influenced as a little girl by her Grandmother’s vivid and poignant stories of the beloved family and friends who were so brutally murdered when the Nazis destroyed the Jewish People of Vilna, Lithuania, Joanne has always understood the importance of preserving Jewish History – one family story at a time. With this mission in mind, she became a professional Personal Historian in 2007, creating her own business, “Your Write Time!”

A popular Adjunct English professor at the College of Southern Nevada, Joanne is also a sought-after-public-speaker, whose presentations on both Jewish Genealogy and Jewish and Gentile WOMEN OF VALOR: Polish Resisters to the Third Reich consistently receive glowing reviews.

Joanne’s extensive travels to meet with Female Resisters and Partisans have taken her to Toronto, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Palo Alto, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Paris, where she was honored to meet with a group of women who had been in the French Resistance.

77th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.






31st book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.






27th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland/Czechoslovakia)

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter

Source: Hachette Books
Hardcover, 473 pgs
On Amazon and on Kobo

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter expertly combines the search for art with the internal mechanics of military operations.  These Monuments Men are struggling to justify their mission to their compatriots and superiors, even though they are given a mandate from the U.S. government, and they are forced to get creative as they are continually denied the resources they need to locate, transport, and protect the art they are searching for.  Stout at one point decides to place signs on monuments that will ensure they are not disturbed: “Danger — Mines!”  Through a series of chapters that not only delve into the fall of the Third Reich but also the confusion of orders from Adolf Hitler with regard to the Nero Decree, Edsel and Witter personalize the stories of these unassuming and dedicated men.

“But with that, the portrait was complete.  Balfour the British scholar.  Hancock the good-natured artist.  Rorimer the bulldog curator.  Posey the Alabama farmboy.  And, lurking somewhere in the back, dapper, pencil-mustached George Leslie Stout.” (page 58)

“This was not to say the job was easy: far from it.  The men had all realized that they really were on their own in the field.  There were no set procedures to follow; no proper chain of command; no right way of dealing with combat officers.  They had to feel each situation out; to improvise on an hourly basis; to find a way to finish a job that seemed more daunting every day.  They had no real authority, but served merely as advisors.”  (page 86)

These men are not only dedicated to their mission, but some are longing for home and the future they have dreamed about.  Like other soldiers in the war, their lives are at risk as the military meets sustained combat and pockets of resistance even as the Nazis retreat into the Alps.  Even after the art has been found and collected, it takes more than six years after the end of WWII before the art would be returned to the museums, owners, and countries from which they were taken.  In many cases, the success of the mission was aided by luck, infiltration of key French personnel, and the meticulous record-keeping skills of the Germans themselves.

“‘A number of our officers went up to see the camp,’ he wrote.  ‘I did not go, because much of my work depended on friendly relations with German civilians, and I feared that after seeing the horrors of the camp my own feelings toward even these innocent people would be affected. …'” (page 310)

The Monuments Men by Robert M. Edsel and Bret Witter brings to life a part of WWII history that had been buried and forgotten for far too many years, and it pays tribute to the modest and dedicated men who fought to preserve not only works of art but entire cultures in the face of great evil and destruction.  These men were hardly alone in their fight to save the art, but they continued to have the courage to push onward and achieve their goals in spite of the obstacles they faced.  As Jacques Jaujard, one of the integral players in France, said, “It matters little that you are afraid if you manage to hide it.  You are then at the edge of courage.”  Moreover, he said, “There are fights that you may lose without losing your honor; what makes you lose your honor is not to fight them.”

About the Authors:

Robert M. Edsel is the best-selling author of Saving Italy, The Monuments Men and Rescuing da Vinci and co-producer of the award-winning documentary film The Rape of Europa. Edsel is also the founder and president of the Monuments Men Foundation, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal, and a trustee at the National WWII Museum. After living in Florence for five years, he now resides in Dallas, Texas.

Bret Witter has co-authored eight New York Times bestsellers. His books have been translated into over thirty languages and sold over two million copies worldwide.
26th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Austria/Germany)
30th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan

tlc tour host

Source: William Morrow and TLC Book Tours
Paperback, 336 pages
On Amazon and on Kobo

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan, the third book in the Ellis Island trilogy (Ellis Island and City of Hope), could be read alone as Kerrigan provides enough background on Ellie Hogan that new readers could pick this one up without a problem, but readers may find a richer reading experience when they read all three.

(If you haven’t read the other 2 books, this review could contain spoilers for those books)

Ellie Hogan has come into her own as a wife, mother, and artist, only to have her life disrupted when her oldest adopted son Leo runs away from his upstate New York boarding school.  Ellie is a first generation Irish immigrant who has lost a lot to the Irish war against the English, but she’s also gained a sense of purpose in America, learning to make her own way.  Her artist’s life is very isolated on Fire Island, and with her son, Tom, she has a quiet existence among the people who have become like family.  But when her son, Leo, runs away to Hollywood, she has to make a choice — send the police or go after him herself.  Making her away across the United States, Ellie tries to keep her fears at bay while being thankful that her youngest son is in the care of good friends while she makes the journey.  Along the way, she meets Stan, a composer who escaped from Poland before the Nazis took over.

“Yet surely the desire for fame was not so different from the desire to be loved, and everyone in the world wants to be loved.  The desire for fame and love is born from a deep human need to be seen, and I felt as if I could really see this young woman now, beyond the mules and the dye and her ridiculous ideas and affectations.  So I started to draw her.”  (pg. 122)

Ellie may have been a quintessential landscape painter with her own signature for delivering paintings to her clients, but in Los Angeles, she’s a mother in search of a star-struck son.  She must decide whether at 16 he should pursue his dream or return to New York and school, and it is a tough decision for any mother with a son who has finally found something to be passionate about.  Ellie’s experiences in a restrictive Catholic home in Ireland inform her ultimate decisions, as she decides that she would rather be more open-minded than her parents had been with her.  Kerrigan easily tackles the ideas of nature versus nurture in Ellie’s parenting, touches upon the seedier side of Hollywood — though not as much as some readers would expect — and incorporates significant details about World War II and the internment of Japanese-Americans.

Land of Dreams by Kate Kerrigan is a satisfying conclusion to this trilogy about seeking out a home and family, but also stability.  But it is also about the realization of dreams across generations and having the gumption to take the leap.  While everything is not as it appears in Hollywood, the facades of the city also mirror those of Ellie’s own adopted country — a land of freedom and opportunity that still oppresses certain minorities and immigrants seeking a better life.

About the Author:

Kate Kerrigan is the author of three previous novels. She lives in Ireland with her husband and their two sons.  Visit Kate’s website at www.katekerrigan.ie and follow her on Twitter: @katekerrigan.



35th book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





29th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.




4th Book for the Ireland Reading Challenge 2014.

War in the Balkans: The Battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941 by Jeffrey Plowman

Source: Pen & Sword Books
Paperback, 160 pgs
I am an Amazon Affiliate

War in the Balkans: The Battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941 by Jeffrey Plowman is a photographic history of the year in which the Balkans became the battleground for the Nazi’s in World War II as it worked with Italy and sought to advance on Russia.  Plowman is very detailed in troop movements and the artillery used, but the pictures were more helpful in ascertaining what tanks, bombers, etc., he was talking about.  Most of the book is photographs that were not been used previously or published before, and the text is a backdrop to these photos.  Plowman clearly has done his research as he follows the accumulation of weapons as they prepare for war, and the unexpected strength of the forces the Nazi’s encountered, even when they were outnumbered.

“This led Britain to discuss the possibility of a coordinated defense of Crete but the Greeks would not allow any landings on their soil without a declaration of war.  Nor did the Italians have much luck either in their discussions with Germany.  When they sought German support for an attack on Jugoslavia, Adolf Hitler was adamant that he did not want to see the war spread to the Balkans.”  (page 11)

There were a high number of casualties in this battle for Greece and Crete, and those were accounted for by nationality — British, Australian, etc. — in the epilogue.  The stance of the major leaders of these governments shifted over time as it looked like the British would enter the war and the Nazis could face harsher opposition than from those of smaller nations’ armies.  This is a book that would be best read over a longer period, with readers taking in small amounts each time.  War in the Balkans: The Battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941 by Jeffrey Plowman is a fascinating look at one series of battles in WWII, and the pictures flesh out his text well.

24th book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Greece and Crete)





28th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.





70th book for 2014 New Author Reading Challenge.

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff

Source: NetGalley/Kindle
ebook, 21 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff is a complementary story to her new novel, The Winter Guest (my review), in which Maria finds herself married and estranged from her father in rural Biekowice, Poland, during WWII.  Maria, who is married to Piotr, finds that she is an outsider at her in-laws home, and is unable to share even her sense of loss with them after he was conscripted by the Germans.  She fills her days avoiding the scrutiny of her mother-in-law, and dreaming about what life will be like when her husband returns.  She feels alone now that she’s severed herself from her father, whom she caught selling information to the Nazis.  However, her father’s betrayal is the least of the secrets she will uncover.

“War had nipped at the edges of their tiny village, Biekowice, changing little things first, like the requirement of registration cards.  Later had come the food requisitioning that left the market so bare.  Piotr’s family had not been affected as badly as most — the farm produced enough simple fare to keep their stomachs full.”

While she lives in relative comfort, Maria must remain strong for herself and a young Jewish girls she discovers hiding in the family barn.  Maria is a young wife who is still finding her place in her new family, while at the same time trying to make sense of the families around her who turn in their neighbors or make other deals with the Nazis to survive.  When she is faced with the dilemma of a little Jewish girl, it is clear that her father’s betrayal propels her to take a different action.  The Other Girl by Pam Jenoff expounds upon a minor character in her novel, The Winter Guest, giving readers a glimpse into how much the paranoia and fear had begun to permeate even the smallest villages as Nazis traipsed through the city squares and fought through the countryside.  It’s too bad that this story is so short; it would make a good novel.

About the Author:

Pam Jenoff was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She attended George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and Cambridge University in England. Upon receiving her master’s in history from Cambridge, she accepted an appointment as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army. The position provided a unique opportunity to witness and participate in operations at the most senior levels of government, including helping the families of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims secure their memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, observing recovery efforts at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and attending ceremonies to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of World War II at sites such as Bastogne and Corregidor.  Visit her Website and Facebook page.

22nd book for 2014 European Reading Challenge; (Set in Poland)




32nd book for 2014 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.





27th book (WWII) for the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist.