“They are going to rid Germany of every genetically imperfect man, woman, and child. Handicapped physically, mentally, emotionally – it doesn’t matter. They will all be gone for the greater good of the Fatherland. That means Amelie,” Rachel is told in Cathy Gohlke’s novel, "Saving Amelie." At four hundred and sixty-five pages, this paperback targets those that enjoy historical fiction blended with romance during World War II. With no profanity, topics of physical and mental abuse and the atrocities of war may not be appropriate for immature readers. In addition to accolades and acknowledgments at the beginning of the book, the end contains a note to the reader along with two book promotions with the first chapter of one, the author’s biography, and fifteen discussion questions. In this tragic tome set in Germany during Hitler’s rise to power in 1939, twenty-four year old adopted Rachel Kramer willing travels once again from New York to Frankfurt with her father, a eugenics research scientist. Realizing her father’s assistance in weeding the weak from the strong in the human race, the woman questions why she has to make another trip to the Institute of Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene in Germany. When her dear childhood friend, married to a SS officer who once proposed to her, slips her a note begging to take her deaf four year old daughter to America, Rachel wonders how far her birth country will go to obtain Aryan purity. With the help of Jason Young, an American journalist, Rachel not only hides little Amelie; she goes rogue when she learns of her father’s participation in studying twin patients, altering their upbringing to obtain a perfected bloodline. Targeted as a perfect specimen for reproduction, the American considers her biological past as Young and she stay one step ahead of the intolerant SS officer who is searching diligently for her whereabouts. Understanding the costly grace of God’s protection, Rachel and those she meets in the small town of Oberammergau fend for themselves as their rights are stripped away. As the woman falls in love with Amelie and Jason, she risks her life to protect those around her. A wonderful yet tender tale that focuses on fortitude and love, the story makes one realize the cost paid for survival and the worth of life during such a tumultuous part of history. Gohlke’s page turner gives heartache to characters that are deeply loved, in spite of the hatred and violence surrounding them. Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. for furnishing this book at no charge in exchange for a review based on the reader’s honest opinion.
I enjoyed reading this historical fiction novel. Saving Amelie is set in Germany during World War II. It shows what life was like at a time when great evil prospered in Germany. It also gives a glimpse into the eugenics movement not just in Germany, but in the United States as well. The author shows some of the horrors of the eugenics movement and the tragedy faced by those who didn’t meet the “ideal” Aryan standards that Hitler wanted. This book weaves together the stories of a young American woman, an American journalist, a little deaf girl, a German Oma and her granddaughter and grandson-in-law, a Jewish girl, and a Catholic priest. Their lives intersect in a fearful time, and they learn to love and care for each other and for those in need of protection. This book is both heartwarming and heartbreaking.
Cathy Gohlke has crafted a beautiful narrative amidst a turbulent time in world history; Nazi Germany during the height of Hitler's arrogance and cruelty; using the backdrop of Oberammergau as her stage."Saving Amelie" embodies realism in such a way, with its traceable facts and actual locations, that one might actually believe that it happened. And fortunately and unfortunately; collectively, it probably did. Rachel Kramer, upon leaving the comforts of New York with her father, the acclaimed geneticist Dr. Rudolph Kramer, could never have imagined that she would be prevented from returning. Upon her arrival in Germany, Rachel is reunited with her childhood friend Kristine, who married a previous suitor of Rachel's; now a rising star in the Nazi regime, SS officer, Gerhardt Schlick. Kristine confides her deep distress over her four year old daughter, Amelie; who was born deaf. In the name of racial purity, disabled German children were being routinely separated from their families and subsequently disappearing, prompting Kristine to frantically implore Rachel to leave Germany immediately and take Amelie with her. Jason Young is an American journalist assigned to Berlin; actively following the story of genetic research; insinuating that Germans were murdering many of their own people along with those of Jewish descent. Rachel's father, he believes, is guilty of engineering some of the exact research that has aided many inhumane experiments. When he and Rachel are accidentally introduced at a state dinner, their immediate connection launches a spiral of events that has Rachel running away from secrets about herself, her father, Gerhardt Schlick; and towards a family that she never knew existed; taking Amelie with her. In spite of being separated on and off for months from each other, Jason and Rachel both similarly and dramatically change during the course of this story; from the inside out. As they cross paths with the now renowned theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, they began to understand that their inner courage and selfless love for others is not derived from their own goodness, but from a "costly grace". As Rachel reads the Bible for the first time in her life, she is confronted with person of Jesus, who willingly sacrificed himself for all humankind; and realizes that "all that ran counter to her upbringing - the very idea that the Bible was anything but destructive to human ambition." Gohkle's epilogue reinforces that fact that Bonhoeffer was one of very few voices in the Christian Church, who understood completely how Hitler's distorted ideology and cruel anarchy would challenge the Church to worship man, rather than the one true God; and he writes, "The Church has only one pulpit and from that pulpit faith in God will be preached and no other faith, and no other will than the will of God, however well-intentioned." And even more sobering, he states,"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men look on and do nothing." From where we are positioned in history, we can attest to the fast that Bonhoeffer was prophetically correct. This is such an outstanding book; Gohlke is a master story-teller and I was privileged to receive an advance copy of this book from the publisher in order to give my honest opinion of the story.
"Germany is at stake--heart and soul...When the church stops standing for Jews--for anyone--then we stop being the church. Grace is costly--it took the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, to achieve that grace. It requires just as much from each of us. But we've come to practice cheap grace--grace that appears as a godly form but costs us nothing--and that is an abomination, a stench in the nostrils of God." Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke was a stirring novel that demonstrated the power of love and it means to lay down your life for your friends and family. True discipleship. The message Bonhoeffer preached to his German congregation and wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship was one of the main themes of this novel and is a message that is still relevant today. As Christians, people who love and follow Jesus, are we justified in remaining mute and inactive when people are scorned or even killed because of their race or physical capabilities, or are we called to stand up, to choose to save the unlovable even when it is dangerous? Saving Amelie captures the attitude of inaction and purposeful ignorance of both the German people and America at the beginning of World War II when the German scientists started using eugenics to first sterilize the "impure" and then to round up the weak, the deaf, the old, the 'imperfect' and to kill them. Both people groups simply stood by and did not respond until it was too late. As Edmund Burke says, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." However, this novel also demonstrates that not everyone refuses to act and that people can be saved even if just a few respond and help. In addition, there is a portion of this novel that reveals the atrocities that German soldiers found themselves forced to enact on Polish Jews when they invaded Poland and their reactions to their jobs. I had never thought about what these actions might have cost the simple German farmers who were Christians and did not hate the Jews or the Poles and how it might have caused them to choose death over a life with these memories. Saving Amelie was researched very well and felt very genuine and real. I was astounded by the ruthlessness of the German Institutes in their sterilization and then killing of those they deemed to be imperfect. Even American scientists who believed in eugenics were taken in by the German leaders' schemes. The plot line of this novel was very well written and moved at the perfect pace so that I could connect with both the story and the characters. The descriptions of both the German cities and the small towns like the Passion town were beautifully done and really allowed me to picture what they must have been like in the 1940's. I also enjoyed learning about the real Passion town and also seeing how the townspeople worked together to save both their traditions and eventually those the German leaders wished to kill. The characters were realistic and well developed. There are two parallel storylines at the beginning of the novel; Rachel's life and Leah's. However, as the novel goes on, these storylines finally intersect and allow the reader to have a better idea what is occurring. At first, I really did not like Rachel's character. She was extremely selfish, jealous, and unwilling to believe what was actually happening. However, as the story progressed, she begins to change as she meets Christians, reads the Bible and The Cost of Discipleship, and experiences the love of a family. Leah is another important character who I liked more but who I quickly found had her own set of faults and prejudices that she had to work through. I was happy to see these two women begin to trust one another and God and to place their imperfections in His hands. Jason was probably one of my favorite characters because he was steady and determined to discover the truth. He did experience character growth as he met Bonhoeffer and as he realized there was more to life than having his byline on an important article. Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel. There was a great amount of sadness and despair in Saving Amelie, but the hope that can only come from showing love and trusting in God ultimately guided the story even through the dark times in Germany. I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
What an amazing book!! I love WWII stories, and thought that I had read every plot, but I was wrong. This was so beautifully written that you couldn't help but be transported into the character's lives and follow them through to the end.
Saving Amelie is a moving portrayal of the fortitude and resilience of the human spirit. Gohlke has captured the beauty and sacrifice of those willing to help others in the depths of Nazi Germany. At times both emotional and suspenseful, this is a fantastic novel for those who love both historical fiction and human interest stories. 4 stars
In this compelling and tense novel, Christy Award-winning Gohlke (Band of Sisters, Promise Me This) tells a haunting story of the courageous few who worked tirelessly and at great risk to themselves to save people they did not know, whom they would not see again. Reminiscent of Tatiana de Rosnay’s stirring stories of human compassion and hope, this should appeal to fans of both authors as well as to historical fiction readers.