(Review) Once a Midwife: A Hope River Novel by Patricia Harman

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Publisher and Publication Date: William Morrow. 2018.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 512.
Source: Library.
Rating: Okay.
Audience: I’m not sure. World War II readers are not going to be attracted to this book. People who’ve read the other books in this series will be drawn to reading this book.

Amazon link

This is the only book I’ve read by this author. So, I have cannot compare this book to the other books written in the series.

It is November 1941. Liberty, West Virginia. Patience Hester is a midwife. She is a wife and mother. Her husband is a veterinarian, Dr. Daniel Hester. They have four children. He is a veteran of World War I. He has made the decision to never participate in another war because of his combat experience. He is a pacifist. She does not agree with him. She’s concerned about his stance and what it will mean for their family.
The book begins days before the Pearl Harbor attack. The book ends in early 1943.

I was drawn to this book because of the midwife theme. The rest of the book was extra fluff.

Patience keeps a journal, mainly detailing the midwifery events. This journal is the background for the book.

I’ve given this book an okay rating. It’s not that I don’t like it. I did read it quickly. It just didn’t sweep me up in the people or story. It is a book that didn’t effect me either way. Daniel’s pacifism-I do not care. Hester’s response to Daniel’s pacifism-I do not care. Why do I not care? Because the book didn’t convince me. Daniel comes across as stubborn. Patience comes across as compliant.
Patricia Harman’s husband was a pacifist during Vietnam. She has the knowledge and ability to create a story about a couple going through this type of experience.

And, it is difficult for me to read a story like this and not have an opinion.
My paternal grandfather was a soldier during World War I. My dad was a soldier during World War II. My son was a soldier during the Operation Enduring Freedom. I have several other relatives who have served in different military branches.
I’ve not met a person who is a pacifist. I don’t understand them, but they are entitled to their opinion.
If the military aspect of the book was removed, Patience still came across as milky-toast. Is she just tired? That’s a possible reason this book is not a hit with me.

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(Review) Claiming My Place: Coming of Age in the Shadow of the Holocaust by Planaria Price with Helen Reichmann West

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Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar Straus Giroux. March 13, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II. Holocaust. Young adult.
Pages: 272.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.
Audience: For adult and young adult readers who read Holocaust survivor stories.

Landing page for the tour at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

Amazon link

About the author:
After graduating from Berkeley and earning a Master’s Degree in English Literature from UCLA, Planaria Price began her career teaching English to adult immigrants in Los Angeles. She has written several textbooks for University of Michigan Press and has lectured at over 75 conferences. In addition to her passion for teaching and writing, Planaria has worked with her husband to save and restore over 30 Victorian and Craftsman homes in her historic Los Angeles neighborhood. Claiming My Place is her first book for young adults.
Website for Planaria Price
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Praise:
“Price has boldly elected to tell the story in Basia’s own first-person, present-tense voice. The result is a dramatic, suspenseful account of survival in extremis, told in collaboration with Basia’s American daughter.” ―Booklist
“Price’s rendering of West’s mother’s early life reads like suspenseful historical fiction, telling a rarely heard side of the Jewish experience during WWII . . . Family, friendships, and romance give poignancy to this unique coming-of-age story, which is further enhanced by maps, a glossary, and an afterword.” ―Publishers Weekly
“A rich exploration of a Holocaust survivor’s sheltered childhood, the atrocity that failed to destroy her, and her later life as an immigrant.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“I was completely engrossed by this drama of survival. Barbara Reichmann’s story is quite extraordinary. It is sad, and terrible, and yet somehow captivating. The whole story of those who survived the Shoah by passing as Christians and working in Nazi Germany is an often forgotten part of the historical record.” ―Kai Bird, Executive Director, Leon Levy Center for Biography at CUNY Graduate Center, and co-author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
“As occurs with The Diary of Anne Frank, this book merges the dire circumstances of the Holocaust with the tenuousness of being a teenager. But Claiming My Place expands the view provided in the diary for one critical reason. Anne Frank’s story is told within an isolated cocoon. In Barbara’s story, however, the Holocaust is in full view as her experiences unfold.” ―David H. Lindquist, Ph.D., IPFW College of Education and Public Policy / Regional Museum Educator, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
“This frightening true story of a young Jewish girl’s flight from the deadly grip of the Nazis celebrates the surprising ingenuity and raw courage found only in the depths of the human spirit. Risking what few others dared, Barbara Reichmann, née Gucia Gomolinska, speaks with wisdom and uncommon self-awareness through her detailed, colorful, and evocative recollections from earliest childhood. In the final portion of this book, her daughter, Helen West, continues Barbara’s journey in an insightful and loving overview of Barbara’s life from the family’s arrival in New Orleans in 1951 until her death in 2007. This is a great read with the suspenseful, inspiring and uplifting appeal of a novel, about a character who will capture the reader’s heart.” ―Allan Holzman, Peabody and Emmy Award-winning director and editor (Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Holocaust, Old Man River, The Native Americans)
“Thanks to the detailed memories and the conversational tone, this book provides an engaging and informative reading experience with as much appeal as a fiction title. Recommended for most YA nonfiction collections.” ―Magdalena Teske, West Chicago Public Library District School Library Journal
“This book was truly a celebration of the human spirit. What a gift she has for putting you in the story. Her way with words, plus her weaving of the actual events recounted to her by the unbelievably courageous Basia and her daughter Helen, was nothing short of magical. The included photographs and epilogue served to fully round out this amazing tale. I never wanted this book to end!” ―Rabbi Lynn Brody Slome

Summary:
Claiming My Place is the true story of a young Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust by escaping to Nazi Germany and hiding in plain sight.
Meet Gucia Gomolinska: smart, determined, independent, and steadfast in the face of injustice. A Jew growing up in predominantly Catholic Poland during the 1920s and ’30s, Gucia studies hard, makes friends, falls in love, and dreams of a bright future. Her world is turned upside down when Nazis invade Poland and establish the first Jewish ghetto of World War II in her town of Piotrkow Trybunalski. As the war escalates, Gucia and her family, friends, and neighbors suffer starvation, disease, and worse. She knows her blond hair and fair skin give her an advantage, and eventually she faces a harrowing choice: risk either the uncertain horrors of deportation to a concentration camp, or certain death if she is caught resisting. She decides to hide her identity as a Jew and adopts the gentile name Danuta Barbara Tanska. Barbara, nicknamed Basia, leaves behind everything and everyone she has ever known in order to claim a new life for herself.
Writing in the first person, author Planaria Price brings the immediacy of Barbara’s voice to this true account of a young woman whose unlikely survival hinges upon the same determination and defiant spirit already evident in the six-year-old girl we meet as this story begins. The final portion of this narrative, written by Barbara’s daughter, Helen Reichmann West, completes Barbara’s journey from her immigration to America until her natural, timely death.
The book includes three maps and 41 photographs in black and white.

My Thoughts:
Several reasons led me to award this book an excellent rating:
•A detailed account of Barbara Reichmann, from age 6 until post World War II. The book encompasses her home life, parents, siblings, neighborhood, hometown, schools, and university life. In addition, her plight of survival during the war. And, post World War II life: displacement.
•A strong teaching on the Jewish traditions, religion, holidays, and festivals. I enjoyed reading about the foods eaten during Passover, as well as the reasons behind the types of food eaten. During Passover, they sing songs and read from the Haggadah.
•Another point related to the previous. At the Seder meal, an empty chair is left for Elijah, even a cup of wine is left for him. I’d not heard of this custom before, and I loved hearing about the details of several other Jewish customs.
•Through Barbara’s voice, I became swept up in her story. I’ve read a long list of Holocaust stories. Barbara’s story is unique. The story of her survival is the expected reading, but I did not expect to learn about her life as a Jew. I feel this is an excellent teaching tool for students to learn about both the Holocaust and the Jewish religion.
•Barbara gave me a background on anti-Semitism in Europe. What the Jews had been accused of throughout the centuries. And, she gave an interesting perspective by stating it is what they’d come to expect. “Jews have learned to accept and endure the persecution off an on.”
•On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. This begins a thirteen day account of Barbara’s memories of this history. It gave me an overall picture of those first days.
•A horrifying life after Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The new laws, abuse, starvation, and murder. In one scene, Barbara and her family are eating dinner when they hear German voices outside their door shouting, “Schnell! Schnell!” The men come in their home going through the house and stealing, while the family still sits at their dinner table not wanting to take a breath.

Claiming My Place is described as a young adult book. Through most of the story, Barbara is in her twenties. The book is not descriptive about the death camps. I wanted to mention this last statement for a parent who may be thinking of this book for their child. I plan to pass this book along to my teenage granddaughter. However, she too has read extensively Holocaust stories.

(Review) The One Man by Andrew Gross

the one manPublisher and Publication Date: Minotaur Books. August 23, 2016.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 416.
Source: Library.
Rating: Excellent.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who love World War II stories.

Amazon

Summary:
The story begins with an older gentleman living in a Geriatric wing at the Veterans Administration Hospital near Chicago. He is visited by his daughter who compels him to share his story about war experiences. Then, the story travels back in time to 1944. Dr. Alfred Mendl, a Jewish man, who is an electromagnetic physicist, has been sent to a Nazi concentration camp. His family was torn apart from him at arrival. In America, a young man named Nathan Blum is given a dangerous mission to break into a Nazi concentration camp, and safely bring out a person who the allies believe will help win the war.

My Thoughts:
The following bullet points are why I loved this story!
•All the characters are at their peak of stress. Some of the characters are under the stress of looking for ways to survive or escape. Some of the characters are looking for ways to hold on to their power. Some of the characters are looking for ways to end the war. Some of the characters are at the point of desperation. Andrew Gross through the use of the general theme, plot, pace, and dialogue compelled me to become immersed in the story.
•The story did not give clues as to who would survive the mission. I loved it that Gross did not give away the surprise ending until the final scenes.
•The power of love and sacrifice is displayed in the story.
•Gross states in the “Author’s Note” that he didn’t go in to details as other books about the brutality of a concentration camp. However, through a Lagerkommandant, I saw the evil in his heart that was displayed in his behavior.

 

(Review) They Fought Alone: The True Story of the Starr Brothers, British Secret Agents in Nazi-Occupied France by Charles Glass

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Publisher and Publication Date: Penguin Press. September 11, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II. Memoir. Secret Service.
Pages: 336.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend. Very good.
Audience: World War II readers.

Amazon

Included are 46 illustrations and a six page list of characters.

Summary:
I love the opening line of the prologue: “The German occupation of France, as Dickens wrote of the French Revolution, was the best and the worst of times.”
In mid 1940, Nazi Germany invaded France, and the French people lived under Germany’s heavy rule until late summer of 1944.
During the occupation, the French Resistance worked to collect information and sabotage German efforts.
The Starr brothers were George Reginald Starr and John Ashford Renshaw Starr. Their father was born in America, but the brothers were born in England. These brothers joined the new organization of SOE or Special Operations Executive. The brothers worked in different areas of France. One of them was arrested, tortured, and spent time in a prison. Later, one of the brothers was accused of war crimes. An investigation proceeded.
They Fought Alone is the story of the Starr brothers, but shares the stories of many of the SOE and Resistance workers during the occupation of France.

My Thoughts:
The previous book I reviewed on the same kind of topic was Long Live Freedom, about resistance efforts in Germany. Their group was named the White Rose. Both Long Live Freedom and They Fought Alone are nonfiction, neither are narrative nonfiction. They are journalistic or academic. They Fought Alone is chronological in time and this is helpful to the reader.

What I loved about the book:
•For the most part it is chronological in sequence of dates and events.
•The historical characters are shown with their positive and negative traits. They are described with a transparent and unbiased view.
•The agents had code names, and at times I had to remember who was who. However, I did not become lost as the list of characters in the front of the book helped.
•The Resistance and SOE work is shown in the book. Operations and how they were carried out as well as the results.
•A strong aspect of the book is the history surrounding one of the brothers who was accused of war crimes. After all he’d endured, he was accused and investigated.

 

 

(Review) Long Live Freedom! Traute Lafrenz and the White Rose by Peter Normann Waage, translated by DiMari Bailey

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Publisher and Publication Date: Cuidono Press. July 24, 2018.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir.
Pages: 256.
Source: I received a complimentary copy, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Recommend. Very good.
Audience: World War II readers.

Amazon

DiMari Bailey

 

Summary:
In 1942, a group of students in Munich wrote and distributed leaflets that went against Nazi Germany. These writings encouraged the German people to question and resist Nazi Germany. It was Heinrich Himmler who had the group of students arrested and murdered. A young woman named Traute Lafrenz was a member of the group. This group was named the White Rose. Later in life, Lafrenz gave an interview to Peter Normann Waage.
It’s important to note that the book begins with the arrest of the group of students in 1943. Then, the book backs up to tell the complete story of the people involved. Several of the students lives are shared. The book does not just focus on Traute Lafrenz, but other students.
Peter Normann Waage is a Norwegian philosopher and journalist.
DiMari Bailey is the translator of the book from Norwegian to English. In addition, Bailey edited the original work for this book. The preface explains Bailey’s other sources, focus, and organization.

My Thoughts:
The only thing about this book I did not like is the moving around in time, back and forth with different years. This is a common practice in a fiction book. I’m not used to this in a nonfiction history book.
A point that readers will want to know is this is not a narrative nonfiction work. It is a nonfiction retelling about the events, reflections from Lafrenz, letters, and the leaflets.
The story of the White Rose is not something I’d read about. World War II is one of my favorite genres. Books about the German people rising up against their government is not as prevalent. I feel this book is important, because it shows that their were individuals and groups of German people who defied Nazi Germany.
An important feature of the book was Hitler’s impact on the German people. When he spoke with fervor and emotion, the people responded in like. I’d wanted to understand a bit more about what Hitler did to cause people to blindly follow his insane rhetoric. This book not only answered my curiosity, but it was a thorough analysis.
On page 68, it is explained that an American journalist had visited Germany in the 1930s. This journalist, John Gunther, witnessed how the German people responded to Hitler. This proceeds the fascinating and disturbing information about the goals of the Nazi Party, especially in regards to the Jews.
On page 122, the rise of the resistance begins. This includes the assassination attempts on Hitler.
I feel this is an important book. It showed me the resistance of the White Rose, but the book held heavy information about Hitler and the German people.
Included in the back of the book are the leaflets that were printed.