Week 3: Discussion of Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Welcome to the discussion of week 3’s reading in Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. Sorry for the delay in posting our thoughts. It’s one of those cases of real life simply getting in the way. For this discussion, we’ll be focused on Chapters 30-45. Please chime in below in the comments.

What do you think of Anna’s reactions to the black car and the trip?

ANNA: I’m sure the opulence of the vehicle amidst the squalor of war drew more attention to the bakery, and their arrangement, than Anna wanted. I think being so isolated and not allowed to leave the bakery allowed her to pretend that none of her neighbors were aware. It was interesting that this bit of freedom takes her back to her childhood, and then the reality sets in and gives her an uneasy feeling.

Once they arrived at the inn, I wonder if Anna thought about how easy it could have been to be the young girl acting recklessly with the young officer. And it is telling when the Obersturmfuhrer scolds them as though he is an exemplary, moral figure when in fact he is lying about Anna being his wife.

SERENA: I think Anna’s trip down memory lane is the first time she’s not thought about starvation, scraping enough together to feed her child, or how she has to sacrifice herself to feed her child.  I liked to see her thinking of her past with at least a little bit of fondness, even if she couldn’t exactly remember if her mother and her had been on such a trip.  The luxury of the car must have been a welcome change, and although I don’t think she was thrilled about this trip and how it would look to others in town, I think she enjoyed it to an extent.

I also found it funny that the Obsersturmfuhrer was acting so moral when he’s having an affair with Anna.  He’s a bunch of contradictions.

Do you think Anna is developing feelings for the Obsersturmfuhrer, given that she surprises herself by wanting to know whether he has a wife? Or do you think her curiosity is something else entirely?

SERENA: I think she’s merely curious about the man who basically holds her in his power.  She spends a great deal of time observing him and trying to figure out his moods and motivations, and I think that her asking is just part of that process.  She’s trying to figure out where she fits into the equation.  What level of importance does she have and maybe how far she can push him to get what she needs for her daughter.  I also don’t know that she was really surprised by his answer.

ANNA: I thought that, too. Though I’m still wondering why she bothered to keep the picture that has Trudy so obsessed with the past.

Do you think that Frau Buchholtz’s reaction and behavior toward Anna when she picks up Trudie would mirror what the others in the town think of her?  And do you think the trip in the car exacerbated those reactions since Anna was likely seen with the Obsersturmfuhrer?

ANNA: Anna senses more fear from Frau Buchholtz than anything, but I wonder if some of her other neighbors would be less fearful and more disgusted by her actions, especially those who didn’t believe Mathilde’s story about her pregnancy. I’m not surprised by Frau Buchholtz’s reaction, as she seems to be barely keeping her family fed and doesn’t need Anna to find something amiss and ruin that. I do believe that the presence of the Obersturmfuhrer’s car would generate fear, even if they learn that he’s only there to see Anna.

I think it was an important scene, Anna realizing that she and Trudy are much better off in terms of basic necessities. Maybe it helps her justify the arrangement with the Obersturmfuhrer in her mind, that it was truly a means of survival.

SERENA: I agree, I think this scene with Frau Buchholtz serves to demonstrate just how well off she is, even if she has to do unpleasant things to remain so.  Does it make it worth it to her, I’m not sure, but it certainly helps her find peace with what has happened.  Things could always be worse.

I’ve been wondering about that little family portrait myself, and I hope we get to hear why she did keep it all these years.  I think if she hadn’t kept it, she might not have the issues she does with Trudy now.

Why do you think Anna is drawn to the interview materials for Trudy’s project and why does she watch the videos?

SERENA: I think she wants to see what others experienced during the war, especially since she was so isolated in the bakery.  I think she also wants to know what others have told her daughter and whether anyone knows them or their situation.  It seems like she wants to keep the past in the past and doesn’t want it to resurface at all, though the likelihood of it doing so is remote unless she tells the story.

ANNA: I agree, Anna is curious but definitely wants to keep her own story untold for various reasons we can only speculate about at this point. I’m curious to see how Anna’s wartime story plays out in order to finally shed some light on why she refuses to tell Trudy her story, even when Trudy catches her watching the videos and it is understandable why she would press the point with her mother at that point. I hope this is a foreshadowing that they eventually will have their much-needed heart-to-heart.

What do you think about the interview with Mr. Goldmann? Do you think he is right that Trudy is looking for a way to exonerate the Germans, namely her mother, given what little she knows and speculates about Anna’s past?

SERENA:  I don’t think Trudy is looking to exonerate anyone.  I think she merely wants to understand what happened to her (stuff she doesn’t really remember) and her mother during the war.  She cannot get it from the source, so this is a roundabout way of her seeing the war through German eyes.  She still doesn’t know her own heritage from Max, so she’s assuming that she’s only German and wants to know what happened to these people that made them overlook so many atrocities.

ANNA: I agree that it don’t think she necessarily wants to exonerate anyone. Of course, I think she’s hoping to find that her mother had no choice to do the things she did during the war, and I wonder if the possibility that Anna may have had ulterior motives (like some of the other interviewees interested only in money) is part of the reason why these interviews hit her so hard. And hearing the story from Mr. Goldmann’s point of view and his justifiable anger is hard to come to terms with, especially for Trudy, who is German and thinks her father was a Nazi officer. It’s hard to wrap your head around as a reader, never mind as someone who actually had to deal with it.

It seems when Anna and Trudy go on that picnic with the Obersturmfuhrer that Anna sees the more “Nazi” side of him for the first time.  He fires his pistol without a second thought for Trudy. What did you think of her reaction and then her subsequent request that he release the 23 prisoners at the camp?

SERENA: I think this scene in which he fires the pistol and could have shot her daughter without a second thought is very telling.  She hasn’t seen this detached, mechanical man much, and she’s forced to reassess her position.  There seems to be greater fear from her in the subsequent chapters after this incident.  It’s clear that he doesn’t care for her child at all, despite the kindness and the gifts, and when she asks for the prisoners to be set free, I wanted to slap her.  Did she just want to invite more trouble or was she really just looking for it all to end for both her and her daughter?  It was crazy to me.

ANNA: This seems to be the first time she really has feared him, and maybe that’s because she cares more about Trudy’s life than her own, I don’t know. All of her other interactions with him seem more controlled, like she knows what he expects from her, but this time it was different: a spontaneous picnic, a sort of scene like they were a regular family. I’m not sure why she thought it was a good idea to ask him to release the prisoners. Was it a test to see how much power she had over him? Even if she really didn’t know the extent of the Nazis’ evil at this point, she’d seen what they’d done to Mathilde for trying to arm the prisoners, so you’d think she’d realize this would be pushing the boundary a bit far.

This is another important scene in which she sees the evil underneath the feelings of inadequacy. And when she learns that he was with the Einsatzgruppen, the division that Rose-Grete talks about in the video Anna was watching of Trudy’s interview, that definitely could play into why she wouldn’t talk to Trudy right then.

SERENA: I agree that Anna might not want to talk about him after viewing that tape with Rose-Grete.  I can see why she wouldn’t.

Do you think Anna’s thoughts about the film hidden near the quarry at the camp indicate that she is working with the resistance again? And if so, why do you think her involvement not mentioned more explicitly?

SERENA: I wondered about her thoughts about that film, but it seems that it was glossed over and we really don’t know why she even mentions it at this point.  I hope that she’s been working with the resistance, though I really cannot see how she would be given her isolation and the fact that the town knows about her relationship with the Nazi.

ANNA: I agree, it doesn’t seem possible that she would still be working with the resistance. So I wonder if the film is something that was left there a while back, and she is remembering it now? Or if she somehow managed to keep working with the resistance and that twist will be revealed later on? Or is the complicated story of her time with the Obersturmfuhrer simply what we’re meant to be focused on right now?

Anna wonders, as the time passes and things look worse for the Nazis, whether the Obersturmfuhrer cares for her. Given his shifting moods, what do you think? And do you think he actually cares for Trudy? Why do you think he gives her the “family” portrait?

SERENA: As for the Obersturmfuhrer, I think he only cares for them inasmuch as he can get from them.  We know that his wife doesn’t leave the house, so Anna has a definite role for him — satisfying him and placating him, etc.  Trudy’s role (though we don’t know if he has his own kids) seems to be that of the child.  He gets to borrow her so-to-speak, though he doesn’t have to do the hard work of caring for her daily or disciplining her all that much.  He also appears to be grooming her with all that marching.  But it’s really like he’s play-acting.  This is what he thinks life would be like if there was no war.  They would be there to please only him.

ANNA: I agree. I think he cares for them in his own twisted way, for what he gets from Anna and how Trudy’s presence makes it seem like they could be a real family in another place and time. It’s almost like the photograph is meant to be some sort of memento of their time together, that it wasn’t meant to last and eventually that will be all there is. I still wonder why Anna kept the photo. She seems to have forgotten it when Trudy mentions it to her, but there must’ve been some reason she didn’t leave it behind in Germany.

What do you think of Trudy’s new friendship with Rainer?

SERENA: Trudy and Rainer seem to have an uneasy friendship, and I think for her part, she likes that he challenges her.  She doesn’t really have anyone doing that to her — just her challenging her mother.

ANNA: I agree that their friendship is an uneasy one. He seems to see more of Trudy than the rest of the world does, though that unnerves her. And since she doesn’t seem to have anyone else to talk to, at least not someone who has some idea of what she may or may not be trying to accomplish with the interview project, Rainer seems to fit the bill. The fact that he was also a history teacher helps her bond with him I think.

What are your thoughts about the final chapter in this section, mainly Anna’s reaction to Trudy’s probing questions about the officer?

SERENA: Anna seems appalled that Trudy knew about the “family” portrait and she refuses to acknowledge anything about him or its existence.  But she really gets mad when Trudy may have suggested that Anna loved him.  To me that seems like her conflicting feelings about him remain unresolved.  She did seem to get used to him, but she was not some doe-eyed woman in love with a Nazi either.  I think until Anna deals with those issues, it will be hard for her to talk about that time.

ANNA: Anna certainly has a lot of unresolved issues, and I think she is blindsided by Trudy’s comments that she actually remembers him. That and the fact that Trudy has seen the picture must unnerve her because things she desperately tries to keep hidden are coming closer to the surface. She does seem quite upset by the suggestion that she loved him, but I wonder if that’s just because the suggestion horrified her or maybe she did have some sort of feelings for him. I think she is sincere when she says she did it all for Trudy, and she would be appalled at any suggestion otherwise. But we’ll see how this all plays out.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments about your thoughts on the second section.  

Please join us for our fourth and final discussion on Monday, July 3 for Chapters 46 – The End.

Week 2: Discussion of Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Welcome to the discussion of week 2’s reading in Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. For this discussion, we’ll be focused on Chapters 16-29. Please chime in below in the comments.

In this second section we see that Anna only thinks of Max when she’s most vulnerable, and when Mathilde questions her about her lack of care toward the prisoners, her answers are very matter of fact.  Do you think she’s shielded herself too well? Was it necessary for her to continue on when Max was taken and she has a daughter to raise?

ANNA: I think she definitely is thinking about how she has Trudy to care for. I think that really comes through in her dealings with the Obersturmfuhrer. But with Max, in addition to having to go on for their daughter’s sake, I don’t think she’s very optimistic about his chances of survival. He was in bad shape when he taken to the camp, and she’s had a glimpse of what life is like in the camp. Plus the fact that she hasn’t had any word of him in a while adds up to be bad news. She also seems to be very matter of fact elsewhere in her life, like at the beginning when she realizes no one is coming to the farmhouse after Jack’s funeral.

SERENA: I agree, Trudy seems to be her sole reason for going onward, and a lack of news about Max coupled with his condition when he was arrested, doesn’t bode well.  She’s a very practical young lady, she seems very mature for her age in that respect.  She’s had to grow up rather quickly.

I do think given her relationship with her daughter that she may have shielded herself from pain too well.  It’s almost like her daughter does not even understand her mother a little bit.  She’s so closed off and the lack of communication between the two is stifling.

Were you surprised by Mathilde’s revelation about her husband? And do you think seeing Trudy has stirred old hurts with her?

ANNA: I don’t know if I was really surprised. She seemed kind of harsh toward Anna about her relationship with Max, so I had been wondering a bit about her personal life. However, I think her agreement to that marriage, and it possibly being why she wanted to help the prisoners, said a lot about who she was as a person and why she joined the resistance. She was very motherly toward Trudy, even if a bit harsh and distant, so it seemed clear to me that her desire for a child was pushed back to the surface. It might even explain why she was so willing to help Anna after she left home.

SERENA: I love that Mathilde seemed to be motherly in a way, though a bit rough around the edges.  I liked that she took the initiative to join the resistance, but it’s sad that she didn’t include Anna in her plans, at least to prepare her for possible consequences.

Having seen Anna’s “relationship” with the Obersturmfurhrer, why do you think Anna is so closed off toward her daughter?

SERENA: I think Anna’s relationship, if you want to call it that, with the Obersturmfurhrer has forced her to do the unthinkable and she wants to shield her daughter as much as she can from it.  In many ways, she seems to be trying to keep her daughter away from him altogether.  She wants her to be as untouched as possible.  I think the consequence of this is that their relationship when she’s older suffers.  But also, Anna doesn’t really remember her own mother and has nothing to base her own motherly relationship on.

ANNA: I wonder why, if Trudy already knew Jack wasn’t her father, she allowed Trudy to think the Obersturmfurher was based on that picture. I feel bad that Trudy is trying to come to terms with that photo and the role her mother played during the war, wondering how she could have been involved with him but not knowing that she was forced to, that she was part of the resistance in a small way, and that he wasn’t her father. I’m sure that would have been a series of events Anna would like to forget, and it would be a really hard thing to bring up in conversation. However, I’m sure it’s also difficult for Trudy to try to come to terms with having a Nazi officer as a father, or so she thinks. I wonder if seeing those books about Nazi Germany in Trudy’s home will spark some kind of discussion.

SERENA: I think Anna’s situation would be hard to talk about no matter what, especially her daughter.  We’re still not sure how young she was when this relationship ended.  Trudy also doesn’t seem to remember much about that time at all, just snippets in dreams.  So that seems to signify that she was young when that arrangement ended.

Why do you think so many Germans are interested in telling their stories?  Is it the money or something more?

ANNA: I think for Frau Kluge in particular money was definitely a motivating factor, but she also seemed to want to justify why she turned in the Jewish families she knew were in hiding. For Rose-Grete, I think it was a way to express the guilt she felt about having done nothing during the war to try to save the Jewish families in her village. Those were the only interviews we’ve thus far, but based on Frau Kluge’s need for reassurance that she didn’t want to be portrayed in a bad light, I wonder how many simply wanted the opportunity to explain their reasons for action or inaction, right or wrong, and to be absolved of any guilt.

SERENA: I tend to agree that Kluge wanted the money, but it seems that so many Germans are looking for absolution of some kind or at least an understanding from those that may just assume that they are Nazis and evil. I also think that Trudy’s little project is part of her attempt at reconciling her mother’s relationship with her Nazi “father.”  I wonder how her mother could have let her go on thinking that for so long.

ANNA: Maybe Anna feels embarrassed about it all, wonders that if she says anything she will be judged for being weak or for not finding another way out of her situation.

What do you think about Trudy’s dreams and what appears to be her descent into drug/alcohol dependency?

SERENA: I think the drugs and alcohol are helping break down internal barriers for Trudy, though it may not be her intention.  It seems to enable her to break through to her past – the memories she has buried for a long time in her subconscious.  I hope that she’s able to stop before she goes to far with those types of crutches though…I also hope that Anna sees those books and realizes that the past is not in the past and that she needs to set things right for her daughter’s sake.

ANNA: It has to be difficult for Trudy to sit across from these people and hear their explanations and then think about what her mother may or may not have done during the war. It emphasizes how the things that aren’t said can do a lot of damage as well. I hope Anna sees the books and the class Trudy teaches as a sign that Trudy really wants to understand.

SERENA: I agree.  I hope that Anna comes to that realization.

What did you think about Roger, his wife, and Trudy? That seems like a mess of a triangle.

ANNA:  I don’t know what Trudy thought she was going to get out of that visit to Roger’s restaurant, aside from a free drink. There’s a reason he’s her ex, after all. But I think it shows how Anna’s isolation has affected Trudy in that she has also isolated herself. Aside from Ruth, she doesn’t seem to have anyone to talk to, and Ruth isn’t the person likely to understand Trudy’s feeling about the German Project.

SERENA: I have no idea what Trudy thought about when she went there, although it is telling that she has no other friends she can turn to.  She can flat out list them on one hand.  She loves to point out how her mother is isolated, but she is as well.  No matter how many students and colleagues she surrounds herself with — no one is let in.

It also seems like Roger’s wife is happy to hold over her happiness with Roger and the success of the business over Trudy.  She seems very conniving.  I wouldn’t want to spend time with either of them.  Then again, I think Roger has a couple of points about Trudy being like her mother.

ANNA: Yes, Roger does have a point there!

Am I the only one wondering what Anna plans to do with the information she learns during pillow talk?

ANNA: Me, too! It seems that she still wanted to have a part in the resistance, particularly in delivering bread to the prisoners, but after that incident where he came to her house a day early and then ordered her to stay at home and be available for him at all times, I’m curious as to how she’d even have the chance to use the information. And it doesn’t seem like she knows any of the other resistance contacts now that Mathilde is gone. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

SERENA: It does seem like Anna wants to be part of the resistance, but there really isn’t any way or her to do it unless someone comes to her at the bakery when he is not there.

Have your feelings changed about Anna and Trudy upon reading this second section?

ANNA: I still feel like I’m being kept at arm’s length from them, though I am beginning to understand their motivations a bit more now. I’m not sure I can say I like either one of them at this point, but they definitely are interested and complicated characters.

SERENA: I think I can get a better feel for Trudy here, but I’m still feeling disconnected from both of them.  They are intriguing and damaged, which has held my interest.  That hasn’t hampered my interest in the story, though.

So do you think that cameraman and Trudy are going to get involved?

SERENA: I think they might, which could complicate the story further.

ANNA: It looks like it might be headed in that direction. That would be good for Trudy, since she is lonely, but I just hope it doesn’t detract from the overall story.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments about your thoughts on the second section.  What do you think of Anna’s story of survival? Trudy’s research project? Feel free to pose your own questions as well.

Please join us for our third discussion on Monday, June 26 for Chapters 30-45.

Week 1: Discussion of Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

those-who-save-usWelcome to the delayed discussion of week 1’s reading in Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum. We apologize, but sometimes real life just gets in the way.

For this discussion, we’ll be focused on Prologue through Chapter 15. Please chime in below in the comments.

When we meet Trudy and Anna there seems to be a significant distance between them. What were your initial impressions of their relationship?

ANNA:  They do seem like people who haven’t talked in years, maybe not ever. The fact that Trudy was so glad to leave the town where she grew up says volumes, as does the fact that no one came to the get-together after Jack’s funeral. It’s hard to reconcile the older, silent Anna with the young Anna who chased and hid Max and happily dreamed about their life together. It’s obvious that whatever Anna had endured during the war (and what we’ve read so far only scratches the surface of her experience, I’m sure) was devastating and took its toll. I’m curious as to her relationship with Trudy as a child and why they seem so distant from one another, whether it’s just that her mother kept things from her that she was too young to remember or if they had a falling out of some sort in the past.

SERENA: I agree that it seems like they haven’t talked in a long time, and it is clear that Trudy is not very fond of her mother. It also doesn’t seem like she’s fond of her father, Jack, right from the outset. It makes you wonder what the family dynamic is here. If her mother never talked to her, then what was her relationship with her father like. I love the scene where she’s speeding out of town — seems like she’s still running from her family and the past.

I was sad to see that no one came to the house after the funeral, but that seems very telling about what kind of life Anna has lived in the United States with this husband, Jack.

Do you think that no one showing up at the funeral was expected by Anna?  How do you think she feels about it?

ANNA:  It probably was frustrating for Trudy not to be able to get any answers about the man she assumes is her father based on the picture. It obviously means a lot to her, considering that she takes the photo with her when she visits her childhood home for the last time. I’m sure the secrets surrounding the photo didn’t help her relationship with Anna and Jack.

Neither Anna nor Trudy seemed overly surprised that no one showed up at the post-funeral gathering. It’s hard to say how Anna felt about it at this point, as we haven’t yet seen how Jack fit into her life. But it seems as though she was resigned to it at any rate.

SERENA:  I agree.  I don’t think either of them was surprised by the absence of the town at the gathering following the funeral.  I don’t think Anna felt much about it.  It seems like she’s disconnected from the town and her daughter.

What did you think about Anna and Max’s relationship? Did it feel genuine to you?

SERENA:  As for Max and Anna’s relationship, it seemed odd at the beginning, but I reminded myself that the Nazi crackdown on Jews had already begun and that Anna was not even supposed to visiting Max’s business, let alone playing chess with him. I’m not sure what the attraction between the two was initially, except maybe the forbidden nature of the relationship. It really seemed like a frenzied lust to me, particularly the kisses and the other goings on behind the stairs.

ANNA:  To me, it seemed like Anna did like him, but I wonder how much of her wanting to further their relationship was about defying her father or gaining some independence. Max was resistant to their relationship, (coming from an older and wiser perspective, maybe) but I agree that the sexual aspect of their relationship seemed more about lust, as well as their isolation and loneliness.

SERENA:  I agree, it did seem like Anna wanted to move that relationship forward in defiance of her father and to gain some independence.  She’d basically been her father’s maid and cook since her mother passed away.

What do you think about Trudy’s reaction in her class to their discussion about the German women consorting with the Nazis because they had no choice? Do you think Trudy believes this about her mother, that she had no choice?

SERENA:  I think Trudy finds herself in a trap of her own making.  First she doesn’t share personal stuff with students, but here she has done it subconsciously.  Second, she’s forcing her students and herself to see what the other side of the collaborator equation might be like.  I’m not sure she believes this was her mother’s situation or not, but I think she would like it to be.

ANNA:  I’m inclined to believe that the core of the story will be about the secret surrounding the picture and Anna’s motivations in whatever situation resulted in that picture being taken.

SERENA:  I agree; it will definitely be a main crux of the story.

Why do you think Anna believes her own bedroom to be impersonal and not her own? Do you think the absence of her mother has made her feel like a stranger in her own home?

ANNA:  It seems like nothing in Anna’s bedroom was hers, that it’s full of memories of the past. Maybe Anna’s mother’s absence has made her feel like a stranger in her home, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that Anna’s father doesn’t view her as his child so much as his maid and caregiver. He doesn’t show her any love or affection, other than when he is pleased with what she has done for him. And his focus on her future and marriage seems to be in what an alliance could do for him. Plus, she pushed away all of her friends after her mother’s death, as she took on the care of her father. Her isolation and loneliness seem more tied to him than her mother, in my opinion.

SERENA:  I think you’re probably right that it does have more to do with her father, but I wonder about her comments about the stuff in her room.  It seems to show that her relationship with her mother was distant too, just like Trudy’s with Anna.  Many kids will look on their childhood bedrooms with fondness and memories, but you don’t get that sense here.

ANNA:  I think you have a point there. The little that has been said about her mother didn’t seem to indicate that they were really close.

Do you like Anna and Trudy at this point?

SERENA:  I honestly don’t like either one yet.  They’re both mysterious to me.  I need to know more.

ANNA:  I agree. I can see some intriguing qualities about Anna, especially when she takes care of Max and wants to help with the resistance. I feel bad for Trudy in that her mother is so distant and there are so many things she’d like to know about her past. But at this point, I don’t feel an emotional attachment to them.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments about your thoughts on this first section.  What are your impressions of Anna and Trudy?

Please join us for our second discussion on Monday, June 19 for Chapters 16-29

June Readalong: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

We’re altering our readalong schedule a little bit and making Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum our 2017 World War II Challenge Readalong for June. We hope you will join us for discussions each Monday starting June 12.

those-who-save-us

For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer. Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life. Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

Discussions will be held every Monday as follows, and as always, we encourage you to share your thoughts and even pose your own questions.

June 12: Discussion of Prologue – Chapter 15

June 19: Discussion of Chapters 16-29

June 26: Discussion of Chapters 30-45

July 3: Discussion of Chapters 46 – End

We look forward to reading what sounds to be a fantastic book, and hope you will join us!

Announcing Our 2017 Readalongs!

We’ve decided to host a few readalongs for the 2017 WWII reading challenge. Here are the books we’ll be reading:

March:

all-the-light-we-cannot-seeWINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the beautiful, stunningly ambitious instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Doerr’s “stunning sense of physical detail and gorgeous metaphors” (San Francisco Chronicle) are dazzling. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, he illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another. Ten years in the writing, a National Book Award finalist, All the Light We Cannot See is a magnificent, deeply moving novel from a writer “whose sentences never fail to thrill” (Los Angeles Times).

June:

unbrokenIn boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

September:

those-who-save-usFor fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy’s sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.

Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother’s life.

Combining a passionate, doomed love story, a vivid evocation of life during the war, and a poignant mother/daughter drama, Those Who Save Us is a profound exploration of what we endure to survive and the legacy of shame.

Generally, we read the book over a period of a month (schedules TBA). We’ll post some discussion questions every Friday and encourage you to weigh in, and even post your own questions in the comments.

We hope you’ll join us!

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Favorite WWII Books: Ours and Yours

We thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite WWII books in case anyone needs some recommendations for the 2017 reading challenge. We’d also love for you to share some of your favorites in the comments to give us some ideas for our own reading!

It was really hard to pare down our lists, so we’ve chosen 5 individual favorites, and 5 books that we both read and loved.

Our shared favorites, in no particular order:

a-moment-forever

Anna’s review

Serena’s review

the-bakers-daughter

Anna’s review

Serena’s review

the-race-for-paris

Anna’s review

Serena’s review

guernsey

Anna’s review

Serena’s review

the-sea-garden

Anna’s review

Serena’s review

******

Anna’s favorites, in no particular order

(click the cover to read her review)

the-book-thief

code-name-verity

the-plum-tree

every-man-dies-alone

shadows-walking

******

Serena’s favorites, in no particular order

(click cover to read her review)

secretofmagic

monumentsmen

grandcentral

tallgrass

womenvalor

******

We hope you’ll consider reading some of our favorites for the challenge. Please share your recommendations in the comments!

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