Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum was my February TBR Jar book pick. The Jar prompted me to read a book I DNF (did not finish) and having recently pulled this book out of a book with a book mark still tucked securely at page 40 I figured it was a good choice.
Yesterday was Valentines Day and I meant to have this Book Chat up then but work and life got in the way* so we have to discuss this twisted love story now. What happens when an Aryan German in 1939 becomes infatuated with a Jewish doctor? Exactly what you would think.
At the start of the story we are introduced to Trudy and her 76 year old mother Anna as they attend the funeral of Jack, Annas husband, in Minnesota, US. Trudy and Anna are distant, Trudy seems stressed and Anna is quiet, sad, she is hiding something. Then we are whisked back in time to 1939 to meet a 19 year old Anna, an Aryan in the midst of Nazi Germany falling in love with a Jewish Doktor named Max. I will leave you to read and see for yourself just how long Max makes it in this book; I don’t find the admission that he doesn’t spoilers because come the fuck on. It’s Nazi Germany, we all knew he wasn’t surviving this book.
As the book continues we jump between mother and daughter. Trudy, in the 1990’s, is trying to decipher her past while running from the horrible guilt she feels as the daughter of a Schutzstaffel (SS) and his mistress. She avoids her mother, who is not talking and believes Trudy should let the past die, and seeks out any affirmation that not all Germans are Nazis. Anna, in the 1940’s, is simply trying to survive but is coming to realize what love is all about. It is not a fairy tale, it is not a happy ending. It is need based and primal. She is willing to do anything to protect her and her daughter but her ties to Max are always there, influencing her behavior.
“Backe, backe Kuchen,”
Der Bäcker hat gerufen!
“Wer will gute Kuchen backen,
Der muss haben sieben Sachen:
Butter und Salz,
Zucker und Schmalz
Milch und Mehl,
und Eir machen den Kuchen gel’.”
Both women struggle with what love is, and how to hold it. It is a beautiful book. Well worth the read. There were moments when i wanted to cry, yell, laugh, all the feelings were felt in this book but it isn’t some YA romance with Nazi Germany as the setting
wow that sounds like a terrible thing i hope that doesn’t exist but ya know, rule 34 this book is going to make it’s reader think long and hard about what they are willing to give to survive, and who they are willing to love to survive. What are you willing to turn a blind eye to to survive? That said it is not depressing. I tend to shy away from anything to do with Nazi Germany because, as a history lover, i have taken many a history course and the American public school system seems to believe the Holocaust was the single most important historical occurrence because it’s taught in depth in every history course (there was even a Genocide course taught at my school that focused solely on the Holocaust -_-) and besides that it is terribly depressing, there are only so many times a single person can read about concentration camps in vivid detail without questioning why we as a species are allowed to exist in the cosmos because clearly it’s beauty should not be tainted by us.
Sorry about the mini-rant. My point is this book isn’t depressing, it doesn’t make you want to crawl into a hole and forsake your humanity. It is about survival. Through the point of view of an Aryan German. It’s the side that doesn’t get told often and it is heartbreaking and tragic and compelling in ways I never imagined.
Book 6 of 36: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum
- 1- Don’t Read
- 2- It’s Good
- 3- Read
- 4- Highly Recommend
- 5- Must Read
Such a beautiful story about love between a mother and daughter, lovers, friends, and even the enemy. Those Who Save Us is a must read and a wonderful addition to a home library, it is well researched and I never felt that it was unrealistic or forced. The book really does leave you wondering how you would have behaved and what choices you would have made for someone you love. It is a book about Nazi Germany where there is no right or wrong. There is only bread and survival. It is also a story about the past and unearthing truths. I read this thinking of the saying “Only ask questions if you’re prepared for the answer”.
Post Script: I did have one complaint but it didn’t seem to fit well being inserted anywhere in my Chat; all of the characters seem younger than they are supposed to be. Trudy is supposed to be about 57 or around there during her chapters but the way she is written I kept thinking she was in her mid 30’s. This is the same for all the characters, they all just seem so young, not in a childish way but there would be times when i thought “Would an almost 60 year old woman really run across the snow with one boot untied?” “Would an almost 60 year old woman really say something like that?”. It’s a minor complain but it did bother me.