Monday, May 19, 2014

Blog Tour Review: For Such a Time by Kate Breslin

From the Back Cover:

In 1944, Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, her Aryan-like looks allow her to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.

Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope even as she risks discovery with every attempt to help the prisoners. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she faces an excruciating choice. Perhaps God may have brought her to the camp for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?

My Thoughts:

For Such a Time is an impressive debut. As soon as I saw the premise, I wanted to read it. I was drawn to the idea of a Jewish woman and a Nazi officer in love and wondered if the author would be able to pull off such an unlikely pairing believably. The answer is yes! The story begins with a young Jewish woman, Hadassah--or Stella, as she is officially known thanks to the false papers she carries confirming she is Aryan--being rescued from death by firing squad in Dachau by a Nazi officer. Colonel Aric von Schmidt is struck by the quiet defiance of the woman he believes was mistakenly interred. A wounded war hero, he has been removed from active duty and given an "honorable" position as commandant of Theresienstadt, a holding camp for Jews bound for Auschwitz. The Red Cross is coming to inspect the Nazi interment camp, and Aric has been given the job of hiding the atrocities committed to convince the Red Cross that the Nazis' prisoners are being treated humanely. He is in need of a secretary, and Stella's papers indicate she is educated. She is also beautiful beneath the bruises and skeletal flesh, and he makes it his mission to nurse her back to health.

Hadassah can't waste much time rejoicing in her salvation at the hands of the enemy. She's seen Nazi brutality firsthand, and she's seen the mind games they love to play with their prey. Though she seems safe and more cared for than she's been in years, she can't afford to let her guard down for a moment, even though the surprisingly compassionate and generous commandant seems determined to get her to do just that. And she has trouble reconciling her newfound luxury and safety with the plight of her fellow Jews in the ghetto next door. At first, she feels lost, set adrift by a God that has abandoned her and her people, but she slowly comes to see that through her clerical duties and her growing influence on Aric, she can help her people, even if only in the smallest of ways. But as her feelings for Aric deepen, creating another conflict in her soul, an embittered Nazi captain plots against them, and the Red Cross visit with the Nazi high brass looms near. Hadassah and Aric will both have to confront their fears and their faith and make decisions that will have dangerous and far-reaching consequences, and they soon find themselves fighting not just for the fate of the Theresienstadt Jews, but for their love and for their own lives.

Now this is inspirational fiction, which I enjoy reading, even though I'm not a very religious person. I like getting insight into the concepts of faith and devotion. And I can't think of a more likely place than a Nazi concentration camp for people under extreme conditions, faced with unending horrors and degradations, to find or lose faith--or both. Hadassah's faith and that of her uncle and their people, and to a lesser extent, Aric, are integral to the story, and it felt very natural. But I could have done without the verses from Esther at the beginning of each chapter. They served as spoilers as they showed how Hadassah's story mirrored Esther's. I would have preferred a more subtle line drawn between the two. I kind of like to draw my own parallels rather than have them explained for me. And I was a bit confused as to what the overall point was when it came to Hadassah's Jewish faith and the Christian Bible she used to hold on to her sanity and rediscover her faith. I couldn't figure out if she was converting or if she was just exploring the similarities between the two religions. And at the end, that aspect of the story seemed to fall by the wayside.

But aside from those elements, it is a wonderful, powerful story. It's a story of highs and lows, of stolen moments and secret pride in the face of torture, humiliation, starvation, and cruelty, and in the ever-present face of death. It's a story of contrasts, how the worst humanity has to offer is still no match for the faith of the best, how hope and joy can rise from the pits of anguish and despair, how the best emotions can rise from the most awful situations, how one person can make a difference.

     "I cannot heal the past for you, any more than I can bring back the dead. I can only offer you this." He brushed his mouth across hers in a light kiss.
     "Should that make me feel better?"
     "Yes," he said with a ferocity that surprised them both. "Because in a world suffocated by death, you and I share something very much alive."

It's a bittersweet, moving love story, and it is a focal point of the novel. I would label this as romantic historical fiction, so if you're not into romance, you may find it a bit much. But I love it! And this one really pulled at my heartstrings, urging me to tears at times and keeping me in a state of angst-ridden uncertainty until the last page. A very good read. Even if many of the major plot points are purely fictional, and even if the daring, dangerous, and uplifting climax may seem improbable, it's still great storytelling. Unbearably sad yet wonderfully hopeful at the same time. Highly recommended for all fans of historical fiction and timeless love stories.

My Rating:  4 Stars out of 5

This giveaway is closed and the winner has been selected.
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GIVEAWAY!

Wanna win your own copy of
For Such a Time?
Simply leave a comment on this post with your email address, and you're entered!

This giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada and ends at 11:59pm Monday, June 2, 2014. Winner will be selected at random. Thanks, and good luck!

For Such a Time is on a blog tour!
                                                                     

15 comments:

  1. This book would be memorable and unforgettable.Thanks for this wonderful giveaway. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

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  2. What an enthralling novel which captured my interest since I am Jewish and read a great deal of books, fiction and non-fiction of that era. Many thanks. elliotbencan(at)hotmail(dot)com

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  3. Thank you for your blog and you giveaways.

    As a up-and-coming historical fiction author, I would love to read this book.

    semperteacher(at)yahoo*com

    Thanks again.

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  4. The era of WWII has spawned so many HF novels, and I can't seem to get enough. This one sounds like a fascinating book. thanks for the giveaway.
    lcbrower40(at)gmail(dot)com

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  5. Sounds like a fascinating read! bodner dot rachel at gmail dot com.

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  6. I loved this book as well! thank you for hosting the giveaway!
    kohlert(at)mail(dot)gvsu(dot)edu

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  7. Our women's ministry book club is considering this for our June book selection. Thank you for the honest review. I think it would be a good match for our group.
    Even if they do not select it, I love historical fiction! It's on my TBR list.
    geaneymail(at)gmail(dot)com

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  8. It sounds like an awesome book and I love reading about this time period! alto1jr @ hotmail (dot) com

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  9. I have heard such good things about this book. Would love to read it.
    rebeccalyn73(at)Hotmail(dot)com

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  10. Thanks for being a part of the tour.

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  11. Thank you for the great review! And I appreciate such kind words from those who have read For Such A Time! For those who haven't, I hope you will enjoy it, too. God bless!

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  12. Thank you for the giveaway. Even though this is fiction, it sounds if there is a lot of basis on fact.
    denannduvall(at)gmail(dot)com

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  13. This sounds like a unique story about some interesting characters.
    mce1011 AT aol DOT com

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  14. Glad to see you really liked this one, too. Impressive really is a good word to describe it. I was surprised by how the author managed to pull off the biblical retelling.

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