Description: Peggy Serrano couldn’t wait for her best friend to come home from the war. But the Jimmy Barnett who returns is much different from the Jimmy who left, changed so drastically by his experience as a medic in Europe that he can barely function. When he attempts the unthinkable, his parents check him into the VA hospital. Peggy determines to help the Barnetts unravel what might have happened to send their son over the edge. She starts by contacting Jimmy’s war buddies, trying to identify the mysterious woman in the photo they find in Jimmy’s belongings.
Seven years earlier, sensing the rising tide against her people, Gisela Wolff and her family flee Germany aboard the passenger ship St. Louis, bound for Havana, Cuba. Gisela meets Sam Shapiro on board and the two fall quickly in love. But the ship is denied safe harbor and sent back to Europe. Thus begins Gisela’s perilous journey of exile and survival, made possible only by the kindness and courage of a series of strangers she meets along the way, including one man who will change the course of her life.
My Thoughts: So good!!!! Peggy stops at nothing to help her best friend, Jimmy. Every time a new obstacle appears, she finds another angle. I love how she keeps trying despite her limited knowledge of PTSD. The manner Author Lynn Austin brings attention to depression is skillful despite the distasteful methods used when not enough was known about mental health and PTSD.
I enjoyed Gisela’s story the most. The bravery of many Jews when faced with horrific inhumanity, is captured in her POV. I felt her sorrow of every loss, bit my nails in her fearful steps, and cheered her boldness in every page turn.
This gem is packed with twists and turns. I honestly expected a different ending! How Lynn brings these two women together to tie the novel up is mind-blowing. You won’t want to miss this historical romance that took me on a roller coaster ride. I fought tears of joy, sorrow, and relief, at gut-wrenching injustice and touching moments like when Americans rescued Gisela’s concentration camp and a soldier tearfully described a bunch of skeletons coming out to kiss their feet.
A moving novel that honors men and women who have fought in a war and then continue to battle at home with PTSD. It offers hope and light in this broken world.