(Review) High as the Heavens by Kate Breslin

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Publisher and Publication Date: Bethany House. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Christian fiction, World War I.
Pages: 393.
Source: Free copy from Bethany House.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Summary:
Evelyn Marche is a nurse in German-occupied Brussels, Belgium during World War I. She lives with her mother. She has a brother and sister who are separated from the family because of the war. Evelyn, known as Eve in the story, works evenings in a café. She is also an agent for the resistance against Germany. When the story begins, her mission is to meet an agent who is bringing an important message. She is shocked to recognize the agent. She risks her life to secure the freedom of this important person.

My Thoughts:
I loved this story.
I was immediately captured by the character Eve. She is so many things that are important in a good character. For example, I understand her life through her thoughts and conversations. She is a person of principle and intellect. She is a dimensional character. I see her strengths and weaknesses. She is a character that I admire. She has painful memories and she has memories of joy. She carried the weight of the story through her resilience and strength. She is a believable character. She is not a perfect heroine and this is important.
I did not know until reading this story there was a resistance network during World War I. I am familiar with the resistance during World War II but not World War I. I felt Belgium was an interesting spot for the setting. Belgium was over-run  and damaged during World War II by the war. I did not know until reading this book its history during World War I.
I enjoyed reading the “Author’s Note” at the end of the book. The history of the spy network is explained, the role of female spies, and the destruction of Belgium during this period.
A strong element of the story is there is a double agent. I did not know who the person was until it is revealed in the story.
Another strong element is the love story. The first thing I think about in the love story is the characters commitment. I could name other factors, but these two people have persevered despite the war.
Lastly, the story shows how civilians felt about and treated those who collaborated or did business with the Boche-Germans.

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(Review) Please Enjoy Your Happiness by Paul Brinkley-Rogers

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Publisher and Publication Date: Touchstone. June 6, 2017.
Genre: Memoir.
Pages: 368.
Source: Free copy from Touchstone.
Rating: Very good.

Amazon

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and war correspondent. He covered the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia as a journalist. He has worked for Newsweek and The Miami Herald.

Summary:
Please Enjoy Your Happiness
is a memoir of a young man who was in a remarkable relationship with an older Japanese woman. The time period was 1959. The place was the port city of Yokosuka, Japan. He was in the U S Navy. She worked as a hostess in a bar. She noticed him sitting alone and reading. She loved poetry and this was the first step in their relationship. They had a kindred love of art and literature.

Paul Brinkley-Rogers is the young man. Kaji Yukiko was the Japanese woman. For Paul, this was a period in time where he had a life changing and memorable relationship. The relationship was brief. The story is a personal examination of that time. And, Paul states that this relationship has continued (for him) despite a separation of 58 years. Letters are included. In addition, the society and culture of Japan in 1959 is examined.

My Thoughts:
I have so many thoughts about this book. I believe it is because of my age and life experiences. I am 53. I have found that as a person becomes older the past is examined closely. There is something about becoming older that makes a person reflect and process the life we’ve lived. Some people (including me) ponder things. We have a sensitive perspective. And then again, there are some people who do not examine the past. They live in the moment. Reflecting on the past is more than thinking about regrets. Other things are studied. For example, am I a mature person compared to who I was ten years ago? For Paul Brinkley-Rogers, this period in his life was tantamount; it was a pivotal point, that changed the course of life.

Several points to consider in this story:
1. Their relationship was brief. It did not continue and show the wear and tear of arguments, disagreements, and the everyday struggles of a couple.
2. They had an intimacy that many long-term couples never have. I want to mention that intimacy does not mean sex. Intimacy means two people who have a deep trust for one another. They have shared the real people behind the flesh.
3. Paul reflects back and understands so much more than he did at age 19-20. Don’t we all understand things a bit better when we are older?
4. Paul is thankful he has this good memory, because he also has painful memories. But, Kaji is his happy place. She is his delightful joy. I bet there are people who have had many relationships who cannot say they had a deep relationship like Paul and Kaji?

I believe some readers will not “get” this story. In order to understand Paul’s memoir, a little life needs to have been lived. Notice I said life and not age. Some people have had heavy life experiences when they are still young.

I loved this story for several reasons:
1. Paul Brinkley-Rogers unpacks his suitcase so to speak, about a great love during his youth. It is interesting to read about the progressing relationship, as well as his mature reflections on this period.
2. I have clarity about Japan’s culture and society post World War II.
3. I have clarity about Japanese women post World War II.
4. I loved reading about two people who by chance meet, and the relationship changes their lives.
5. An additional tweak to the story is Paul was born in England. His perspective on America brought a different viewpoint. Especially in reference to racism.
6. The letters that are included from Kaji are important. I was able to hear her voice.