The best books leave you satisfied with the conclusion, but still wanting a little bit more of the characters when the last page is read. The latest novel from Cathy Gohlke, Saving Amelie, is like that. It’s an exciting, heart pounding – and often heart wrenching – story set in Germany during World War II.
Rachel Kramer, adopted daughter of a prestigious genetics researcher, returns to Berlin with her father in 1939 to find it much changed from her growing-up years. At first naïve and preoccupied, she takes little notice of the presence of SS Officers, Adolf Hitler’s “supermen”, and their impending threat to the citizens of Germany. When a childhood friend reaches out to Rachel for help in saving her daughter Amelie, deaf since birth, Rachel begins to realize the true plans of the Nazis and her father’s entangled involvement with them. Hitler wishes to rid the world of anyone with a disability, such as Amelie, and others he declares unfit by ghastly means. As she uncovers the secrets of her father’s research, Rachel realizes the threat of the Nazis and the power they have over the unsuspecting German people.
Jason Young, an American reporter stationed in Berlin, is waiting for his big break with a first rate news story. After meeting Rachel Kramer and helping her solve some of the puzzling facts about her biological family, he becomes the only person she can turn to to rescue Amelie and help her flee a frightening new realty that is closing in fast. When more secrets come to light, Rachel must find a place to hide while evading the SS officers desperately searching for her.
Rachel and Jason’s characters both grow and mature as a result of their circumstances and the people around them. As Jason questions his motives in helping Rachel, he discovers the meaning of sacrifice and selflessness, and the possibilities of faith in God. When Rachel’s life suddenly changes, she goes through a time of disappointment and unhappiness. However, her character begins to find new hope, even in the midst of her trials, because of the love and care of the people around her.
Gohlke conveys the emotions of the characters effectively through her writing style. The reader experiences the terrors and heartache of the wartorn time, and is caught, as the characters are, right in the middle of the action. With small glimpses into the supporting characters’ journeys along the way, the reader is privy to more than just the viewpoints of the main characters. Additionally, small bits of the characters’ personalities, habits, and mannerisms are well-placed, aiding in making the characters realistic.
Numerous historical facts are woven into this story, with some characters or their actions modeled after real people. There are great examples of people helping each other, in small ways, doing whatever they can to help bear the burden and plight of their people. German Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a renowned theologian who spoke out against Nazi persecution, even makes a few appearances in the story. These characters reinforce the strength of setting Gohlke establishes, engrossing the reader in WWII Germany, in a time of food rations, blackouts, confiscation of personal property, and genocide.
Saving Amelie communicates an important message through the journeys of Rachel, Jason, Amelie, and others. Through these struggling characters’ stories, the reader sees that God loves everyone, even through uncertainty and trails. His strength is there, even when His children are weak and powerless. Sacrifice is a decision. As the characters experience firsthand, it is often easier to turn one’s back on the suffering and wrongs of this world – but that is not what Jesus did. He sacrificed the ultimate price because of his love, providing this “costly grace” freely to any who would believe.
Note: Thank you to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., for the complimentary ARC copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Learn more about author Cathy Gohlke and her books at her website.