Saturday, August 2, 2014

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: May 21, 2014

Increasingly wary of her father's genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany--in the summer of 1939--will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline. Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he's as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father's files may hold answers about Hitler's plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems "unworthy of life." She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she's never known. Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young--a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally--who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel's every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife's edge, risking their lives--and asking others to do the same--for those they barely know but come to love.

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There are currently forty-seven five star ratings for Cathy Gohlke's Saving Amelie on Goodreads and a whopping sixty-nine on Amazon. Why am I noting this? Probably because I feel like the only reader out there who didn't love the book.

I suppose my biggest problem was the number of primary cast members. Rachel, Jason, Lea, Friederich, Gerhardt, Bauer, Amelie... There were too many competing voices and I felt the number of narrators only served to complicate the already over overburdened plot. 

Another issue I had was Gohlke's treatment of faith. It was barely mentioned in the early chapters, but it developed into one of the book's primary themes in the latter portion of the novel. The resulting imbalance created a sense of disconnect and that didn't sit well with me when looking at the book in its entirety.  

Historically speaking I loved the material Gohlke used. Her depiction of the Nazi eugenics program and Oberammergau's Passion Play were particularly well done and I liked how she tried to exhibit the conflicted allegiances that might have been felt by common Germans during the war. 

Overall, not a bad piece. Ideally I might have liked a cleaner ending with fewer loose ends, but by and large I liked the book and look forward to reading Gohlke's other titles. 

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Rachel did not believe in God—had been raised to view such belief as a crutch for the weak. And she, a member of the elite, was not weak. But for the first time in her life she wished she did believe. She knew she was weak, and she needed help.
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