In this compelling series by Shari J. Ryan readers are given the same story from three different points of view, that of Amelia, Annie and Charlie.
In this first book in the Lost Words trilogy, Emma is tasked to find her grandmother's diary. Her grandmother Amelia has suffered a stroke and almost immediately begins asking for "Charlie". Emma is with her at the hospital and that is when Emma honors her request by looking for the journal.
We have two stories in this book - that of Amelia's loss of her family as her once-happy life quickly turned into living in a concentration camp. We also have Emma's story and as to what happened with Amelia's cardiologist Dr. Jackson Beck. I loved watching both stories develop. For one thing, I knew going in that this trilogy would have three different perspectives, so seeing Amelia's point of view, but through the eyes of Emma as she read the diary from cover-to-cover was just so heartbreaking, especially as we see Emma struggling after having a stroke.
Back in 1942, Amelia is in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, and a soldier does more than offer her a piece of bread. In fact, he ultimately saves her life, and makes an impact on her that proves a miracle, especially since she was a Jew and he was an SS Soldier. In present day, Amelia's diary recounts her experiences and reveals secrets she has held onto for decades.
This book takes a tragic story, tragic experiences and heartbreaking memories and turns it all into a story of hope. All while readers are led to see what ultimately happened to Amelia and the soldier, they also see Emma's life take a delightful turn. This was a wonderful first book in a great series that I had the privilege of reading back-to-back. Although saddened more than once while reading, I was able to find hope and inspiration and I love that this book gave me that.
As this book is a re-release and is available with books one and three, The Girl with the Diary and The Soldier's Letters, readers should be familiar with Annie. Another familiarity readers might remember is that a child was born in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and she was named Lucie. It is made clear early on in this book that Annie, Emma's aunt and Amelia's sister from the first book is the same little girl that was born under horrendous conditions during World War II.
We had Amelia's story. We will have Charlie's story, but what is Annie's story? Well, her life started under devastating conditions that was truly miraculous. Her story began again as Annie recounts her childhood with specific experiences that helped her to truly form her identity. When she was a teen, she heard something she was not supposed to by her parents. This led Annie to many questions, questions she kept to herself but spent a lifetime searching for answers.
While Annie's life has been filled with hope, with joy and with fulfillment, it was also filled with devastation, even lies. Why lies? Well, these lies were surrounded by love, and that is what makes this second book in the Lost Words series such an inspiration. I loved Annie's search for answers and how it ultimately led her to find much more than she ever would have imagined.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 291
Date of Publication: May 24, 2022
My Rating: 5 Stars
“Survive for as long as you can, fight until you can’t fight any longer, and if this war ever ends, I want you to run as far from here as you can and never look back…”
Most Jewish people, and many, many people in general might not want to read a story about a "good" SS Officer. In fact, my grandfather was Jewish, so I share many of the sensitivities of Shari J. Ryan when she makes this comment in the Preface - "As a Jewish woman, I grew up in the fear of hatred, antisemitism, and the simple case of being a minority with religion." In fact Ms. Ryan refers to this book as a taboo story. A good Nazi? Well, when you read Charlie Crane's story, that is what you will get, with full hope and confidence that there were good men amongst those ranks.
Charlie's story basically starts when his mother tells him he will be changing schools. He fits the mold desired by Hitler to fill his army - fair, blond hair and with blue eyes. He is still of tender years, but his training on conditioning and hatred has begun. However, when he is ordered to murder a Jewish woman, he balks, but the woman is killed by another soldier anyway. When he spots the woman's daughter at the Theresienstadt concentration camp he finds himself utterly compelled. Ultimately he draws closer and closer to her and the two fall in love, despite the fact that they are born enemies due to the ideology pressed into him.
Charlie saves her life. She is Amelia, who readers met in the first book in this Lost Words series, The Girl With the Diary. The pair end up seperated for decades, but the condition of their hearts has kept them together. When a chance to reunite with Amelia presents itself to Charlie, he does not hesitate. What a tremendous demonstration of the power of love this book The Soldier's Letters brings to its readers.
This might be the most important book of the series. Hitler's youth were the way they were for specific reasons. However, in this case one heart was not swayed by hatred. In fact, Charlie's heart proves different from many, if not most, of those soldier's. The story as it is in the present is utterly heartwarming. I highly recommend reading this series in its entirety, starting with the first book. While the series will break your heart at times, it will also fill it with a deep sense of warmth.