“I came searching for my parents, for the family I want so desparately – have wanted all my life – and this is what I get?” Hannah worries in Cathy Gohlke’s novel, Secrets She Kept. ~ What ~ This four-hundred-and-sixteen-page paperback targets those who are intrigued by romantic Christian historical fiction involving Nazis and Jews during World War II. With no profanity or detailed sexual scenes, topics of physical and sexual abuse, imprisonment, murder, and death may not be appropriate for immature readers. The ending includes the author’s notes and first chapter of a previous book. In this tale told in first person by two individuals over thirty years apart, twenty-seven-year old Hannah Sterling is unable to get over her mother’s death, especially when she learns the man who raised her is not who she was lead to believe. Lieselotte Sommer was only thirteen when her mother died and slowly begins to learn things are not what they seem when her father rises in the Nazi ranks in Berlin in 1938. In love with a boy her father forbids and compassionate toward the needy, the teen gets caught up in aiding others, convinced her father is unaware of her intentions. As Hannah learns her grandfather is still alive, she flies to Germany, only to uncover secrets, heartbreaks, and lies that she cannot fathom or correct. Dealing with the truth, both women learn in different ways about love and forgiveness. ~ Why ~ With the historical background of the Reich abusing the Jews, the book draws the reader to how family relations are pivotal yet sometimes destructive during wartime. I found Gohlke’s writing superbly sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust and how loved ones dealt with its tumultuous aftermath. ~ Why Not ~ With the story dwelling on a hideous time of humankind with the over-whelming cruelty toward Jews, some may be uncomfortable reading the gut-wrenching account. ~ Who ~ Two-time Christy Award winner, Gohlke has written several books and lives in Virginia and Maryland with her husband. ~ Wish ~ Due to the tenderness Gohlke approached the topic of war, I hope a new book will be written shortly. ~ Want ~ If you find historical fiction of WWII from the Nazis’ perspective engaging, this story of survival through secrets on both sides of the war will stimulate forgiveness of others. Thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for offering this book to read and review for my honest opinion.
Hannah Sterling has always wished for a relationship with her mother. When death closes that door, Hannah is determined to unlock those secrets of her mother, Lieselotte's, past. Why was her mother the way she had always known her? She then learns that she has a grandfather who still lives in Germany. Meanwhile, thirty years earlier, Hitler is rising to power and Lieselotte's father is climbing the Nazi ranks. A proper marriage for his only daughter could help him advance in his career. What happens when Lieselotte is in love with a man who is secretly working against the Reich making it far from an ideal match? Exactly how far is her father willing to go to ensure that she cooperates and how will their actions echo through generations? When Hannah goes to Berlin to visit her grandfather, both stories are uncovered. She also learns that her grandfather has wartime secrets of his own. Longing for connection with her family, yet is shaken by the things that she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family's tragic past...and how their legacy will shape her future. Cathy Gohlke has a talent for storytelling and her research was thoroughly done. Secrets She Kept is engaging and powerful. It is a story that is crying out to be told and is a must read. You may know about the Holocaust, but there's more to what occurred during World War II than many realize. Be prepared to walk through some concentration camps and to cry, but also for rejoicing because it is a story of forgiveness. Don't miss out on this one! Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
Forgiveness is often reclusive, lingering in the shadows of an embittered soul, hoping that the light of truth never deems to shine in its direction. Hannah Sterling avoids the specter of forgiveness like a plague, and some would argue that she has good reason to embrace anger, bitterness and regret; especially in light of the horrific circumstances that preceded her own birth and proceeded to ruin the lives of her family members, both known and unknown. Following the death of her mother, Hannah travels to Germany, intrigued by items that a search of her childhood home has initiated. She is determined to find answers to the secrets that her mother kept locked away in a safe deposit box until the day she died. Discovering a grandfather that she never knew existed, Hannah is shocked when he is less than forthcoming about her mother's past, and with good reason. Lieselotte Sommer was a relentless champion for freedom and thus an enemy of the Reich, paying for her courage with the right to a happy future. Aided by an unexpected friend and confidant, Hannah unearths a literal trove of atrocities, only to find her own life at a strategic crossroads; will her family's past destroy her as well, or will it send her on a path of love and redemption that she never knew existed. Written in dual voices, "Secrets She Kept" traces the amazing lives of not one, but two young women whose lives are miraculous testimonies, with very different endings.
In a small North Carolina mountain town in the early 1970s, Hannah Sterling struggles with questions of forgiveness after her mother’s death. Taking leave from her job as a high school teacher, Hannah rummages through her emotionally distant mother’s old home, only to find letters connecting her grandfather to the Nazi party. Hannah embarks on a journey through Germany to uncover the secrets of her family’s past, a task her octogenarian grandfather and his close associate are only too eager to block. Told from both Hannah’s viewpoint and that of her mother as a young woman, this well-researched epic depicts life under the Nazi regime with passionate attention. While the Sterling family story serves as a warning about digging into the past, it is also a touching example of the healing power of forgiveness and the rejuvenating power of faith.
4.5 stars, top pick. Gohlke takes the reader on a compelling journey, complete with mystery and drama. She weaves in real stories from Ravensbruck, making this drama one that will be difficult to forget. It is well researched, and the multilayered characters demonstrate the power of love and sacrifice.