Sunday, August 16, 2020

Those Who Save Us

 Donna was about to donate the book, Those Who Save Us. The Viet Nam Vets were coming for a pick up on Wednesday and one bag was filled with books.  I looked through them and, for the most part, had no interest in what was in there. But I did stop and take a look at Those Who Save Us.  I decided to keep it and give it a shot.

I snorted it.  It's not a short book, not enormous, but about 500 pages.  Zip Zip.  Of course, I have completed a writing project so I've got some time before school begins again. Still some books even when you have time can take a spell because you're not that engaged with what's happening between the covers.

This is a page turner.  Some extraneous characters and sections that now, in retrospect, I have no idea why she decided to include, but she writes descriptively and the topic was of interest.  

The book starts at a funeral. Mother and daughter are in a church with neighbors in a cold Minnesota rural town. Townsfolk are there for support. Jack, has passed, and Trudy the 53 year old daughter, and Anna the widow and mother are attending.  We learn a bit about the mother, and the daughter's relationship with the mother, and the townsfolk's attitudes toward Anna in the first few pages.

The book then toggles between scenes from Weimar during the Nazi years and the Twin Cities where Trudy is a history professor.  Anna had been in Germany during the war years. The author goes back and forth until we learn what happened to Anna and how she wound up in rural Minnesota married to a fellow from Minnesota with a--by the time the novel ends--57 year old daughter.

How did the Germans who survived the war live with themselves after the war knowing what was done and what they, personally, did during the war?  Do you forget the past? Do you vow never to speak of it? Do you change the narrative of the past to permit sleep at night?  And what exactly did Germans do in order to survive during the war?  

This is Jenna Blum's first novel and hats off as she was born in 1970 and has gotten in the weeds with the Nazi era which took place thirty years before she was born.  As I wrote above there are some scenes--with Trudy's ex husband for example, and Trudy's colleague, and Trudy's videographer--that just seem to be--while not uninteresting--not central to the story. 

Recommended. If you're looking for a message beyond what one can glean from the plot line, it might be disappointing.  I was not disappointed.  It was a good weekend read, and a book that will stay with me. 

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