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Inspired by the incredible true story of a German teen taken prisoner at the end of WWII, determined to survive and to reunite with his mother - A Lightness in My Soul is a tribute to the triumph of hope and redemption against all odds. Germany, October 2019: In a car repair shop an elderly man waits next to a woman. They begin to talk about the Great War, when he was just a teen. He tells her a story, one he has never shared—his own. Bavaria, April 1945: For the last two years, fifteen-year old Arthur and his classmates have lived in a youth camp. Far from home and allied bombs they spend their days with lessons, hikes, play fights and helping local farmers harvest ever decreasing crops. They have been told that the war will be over soon and that they’ll return home to a victorious Germany. When the U.S. Army marches into camp, they are arrested and taken to the just liberated Dachau concentration camp. Everything they ever believed turns out to be false. They were lied to… not only has Germany lost the war, what they find is monstrous. But being a prisoner is only the beginning of their ordeal…
“I’m really tired of Braun,” Emil said that same evening. “He torments Otto and looks at me like I’m some kind of criminal.”
We were in the washroom where Emil scrutinized a new assembly of zits on his chin. I was giving myself a birdbath, craving the peacefulness of our bathroom at home. I could tell something was eating Emil, but he seemed nervous, his gaze wandering to the door every so often. For a moment it was quiet—with Emil you could be totally comfortable saying absolutely nothing.
When Emil remained silent, I quipped, “maybe that shrapnel will give Braun a hernia.” I could tell something was eating my friend, but I wasn’t going to press. The last thing any of us needed were nosy questions. Instead, I examined the frayed towel that had once been white.
I urgently needed new clothes too, especially underwear and socks. But my last two letters to Mother had remained unanswered. The dread animal inside me stirred and I quickly hung the towel to join the others.
No point worrying about home. Braun insisted the Führer was working hard to ensure our safety and that progress was being made all the time.
Did I believe it? Maybe.
5 out of 5 (exceptional)
A LIGHTNESS IN MY SOUL is a fictional novella based on a true story, one that happened in Germany many years ago.
Just like the British evacuated their children, so did the Germans, although not everyone was put into homes, but camps instead. This is a heart-breaking and harrowing tale, told in the first person, as Arthur goes to a KLV camp. You stay with him as he begins to question just what is going on, then the Americans arrive, and you stay with him in the aftermath of that.
The conditions Arthur has to face are very well-written, managing to give the reader the horror and hopelessness of the situation without making it gruesome or unnecessarily violent.
For anyone with an interest in the history of WWII, especially if you are interested in the German perspective, then this is definitely one for your bookshelves. A one-sitting, engrossing read highly recommended by me.
* A copy of this book was provided to me with no requirements for a review. I voluntarily read this book, and the comments here are my honest opinion. *
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Annette Oppenlander is an award-winning writer, literary coach and educator. As a bestselling historical novelist, Oppenlander is known for her authentic characters and stories based on true events, coming alive in well-researched settings. Having lived in Germany the first half of her life and the second half in various parts in the U.S., Oppenlander inspires readers by illuminating story questions as relevant today as they were in the past.
Oppenlander’s bestselling true WWII story, Surviving the Fatherland, received multiple nominations/awards. The recently translated German version received the silver Skoutz Award 2020. Uniquely, Oppenlander weaves actual historical figures and events into her plots, giving readers a flavor of true history while enjoying a good story.
Oppenlander shares her knowledge through writing workshops at colleges, libraries, festivals and schools. She also offers vivid presentations and author visits. The mother of fraternal twins and a son, she recently returned to her home, Solingen, Germany where she lives with her husband.
2017 National Indie Excellence Award
2017 Winner Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
2017 Kindle Book Awards Finalist
2017 Discovered Diamond Historical Novel
2018 Indie B.R.A.G. Award
2018 Readers’ Favorite Book Award—Bronze
2019 Global eBook Award—Gold
2020 Skoutz Award—Silver
IWIC Hall of Fame Novel