Showing posts with label historical novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label historical novel. Show all posts

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Ragged Edge of Night - Book Review

The Ragged Edge of Night - Book Review
What Others Are Saying About This Book
Nazi Germany.  1942.  A priest in search of redemption.  A widow seeking provision for her fatherless children.  A people desperate for relief—relief from oppression, from evil, from hopelessness.  Olivia Hawker's new historical novel, The Ragged Edge of Night, is a revelation.  To immerse ourselves into Anton and Elisabeth's war-torn lives is to see glimmers of unimaginable beauty beneath the desolation of loss, shame, failure, and fear.

As the story begins, Anton is still reeling from the abrupt end of his mission as a Franciscan friar.  To be wrongly stripped of his life's calling has been painful, but even worse, he cannot forgive himself for being powerless to save the children who were in the church's care.  When the Nazis loaded up Anton's students, he was overcome by an overwhelming sense of having committed the unforgivable sin.  Though there was nothing Anton could have done to save the children's lives, the guilt is crushing.


While Anton wrestles with his demons, Elisabeth, a young mother of three who is still grieving over the unexpected death of her beloved husband, is in the midst of considering the hardest decision of her life: whether to remarry in order to provide for her family.  Elisabeth feels great shame as she struggles to reconcile the feeling of being unfaithful to her first husband.  If there was another option, she would gladly choose it.  Alas, the harsh realities of wartime force Elisabeth to publish the following personal ad:
Good churchgoing woman, widowed, mother of three.  In need of a humble, patient man, willing to be a father to my children.  Interest in legitimate marriage only.  I have no money, so those who think to profit need not reply.
 In coming across Elisabeth's plea for help, Anton is immediately struck with a new sense of purpose.  Though his first choice would be to eventually return to his Franciscan order, and while Anton remains true to his sacred vows, he feels that supporting Elisabeth and her children is the right thing to do.  This opportunity has the potential to fulfill Anton's deep need to be useful, to find forgiveness, and to protect those who need it most (addressing his need for redemption due to the loss of the children snatched up by the Nazis who shut down Anton's school and religious order).

The soul of this book is revealed in the simplest, and yet loveliest of ways, as two faithful individuals remain true to their vows, their principles, their hearts, and all that defines a life worth living, and for which they are willing to die.  When Anton's involvement in the resistance movement against Hitler brings danger into his new family's life, relationships will be tested, and the true nature of love will be revealed.

Based on the real life experience of one of the author's family members, The Ragged Edge of Night is a timely story that is sure to inspire every reader who is concerned about the extreme tensions that are being felt in today's world.  This is a moment in history when every single one of us can take heart as we consider the difference an ordinary person like Anton can make in the lives of those who are hurting.  I was deeply moved by this book and highly recommend it.








Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner Book Review

Reviewing A Fall of Marigolds. 
A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner is both heart-breaking and triumphant. It is a story of two women who lost the men they loved during two separated tragedies. A co-worker recommended this book to me. The first chapter was easy to read. I was immediately hooked. Then I got bogged down in the second chapter. My co-worker encouraged me to continue reading. I'm so glad I did! 


A Fall of Marigolds


Chapter 1 begins with Taryn and the setting is Manhattan in September 2011. Her story begins at her job - a job she loves in a boutique fabrics shop. Her specialty is identifying and matching old fabrics. Taryn's word-of-mouth advertising is that she can always find a match to old and rare textiles. Her response is, "Almost always."  There is one piece of material that stumped her. Lily's "French-made from an Indian design, and surely a hundred years old" marigold patterned scarf was a mystery. 

Taryn was a young widow, her husband killed during the 9/11 attacks. And she was raising her daughter alone. Taryn had no way of knowing how that customers scarf would tie together the past and the future.

Chapter 2 opens with Nurse Clara at Ellis Island, August 1911. The shift from a setting in this century to a setting 100 years ago was jarring for me. I got stuck in Chapter 2 and had to re-start it a couple of times (from a combination of the book and from my typical response of falling asleep as soon as I begin reading).  Clara's voice was subdued and her story seemed as though it was going to be boring compared to Taryn's.  I am so glad I continued reading because Clara's story was not boring. 

We spend days with Clara and the other nurses and doctors on Ellis Island as they care for the immigrants who are ill, contagious, and often dying. It became very hard for me to put the book down as the relationships on the island, and the characters become fully formed. Clara has reason to sound subdued. She lost her love in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. 

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire occurred and the issues with the elevator and stairs trapped the workers on the floors above the fire. 145 people died, either in the building or while jumping to their deaths from the windows. 

Part way through Clara's story, I began to think that the author would tie the two story lines together in some fantastical or annoying way. I was happily wrong. The lives of the characters were woven together in a beautiful way.


Author Susan Meissner


In the Author's Note, Ms. Meissner writes 
"I strive to be as accurate as possible when I create an imagined story in a historic place .... I have in these pages proposed how one nurse might have experienced Ellis Island Hospital in the second half of 1911."

I enjoyed reading about Nurse Wood and the writing was so engaging that I could completely imagine the setting. A setting that I had never before given much thought. I felt as thought I was on the streets during 9/11. And as though I were watching Nurse Clara care for those who were recovering or dying on Ellis Island. 

The book dealt beautifully with tragic events, grief, and mourning. The age-old battles of how to make sense of tragedy, how much to let yourself love, and how quickly to trust. And finally, how does each person try to make sense of life, the "hard and beautiful aspects of a full life."





Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article.