The story is beautifully written and that’s what drew me in and what stays with me after reading.
I don’t usually read historic fiction and I dislike reading or talking about the Second World War (teachers overdid it at school and I feel I had enough for a lifetime) so this was a surprisingly good read for me.
It starts with Beth’s 90-year-old father Matt getting the news that his health is deteriorating and he should “get his things in order”. For him, this means going through a box he had left untouched for over 50 years… his memories of his time fighting in Germany. Beth had never heard her father speak of it before. Maybe it has to do with the pregnant woman posing with her father in one of the photos?
This is a triple narrative story, told in the present by Beth, during the war by Max, and from the 1930s into the war by a young woman named Johanna.
And, to my surprise and Aimie Runyan’s credit, the one that drew me in was Johanna’s. She found the words to depict what is often not understood about the Hitler regime: how people could “let it happen”. Through Johanna and the different members of her family she shows the struggles each person has in the oppressed Reich and why they sometimes had to go along with what they felt or knew was wrong, because anything else would put them in danger.
Sadly, the storyline itself disappointed twice when coincidences were just too big to believe, but the writing itself kept me reading about the very relatable characters.
Across the Winding River, by Aimie K. Runyan is out 1 August 2020 (Lake Union Publishing)
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