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Only the Beautiful - a deeply moving historical novel.

Rosie Maras was raised on a vineyard in California where her father worked. At sixteen, a car accident claimed the lives of her parents and brother. Vineyard owners Truman and Celine Calvert agreed to allow Rosie to stay and live with them, but she had to work as their maid. The only kindness she received was through correspondences from Truman's sister Helen, who was living overseas. Throughout her life, Rosie had been combating a condition where she saw colors when she heard sounds. She had been warned by her mother to never tell anyone about it. At the time, this neurological condition (“synesthesia”) was not well understood by the medical community. By 1939, Rosie, who was still a minor, was pregnant and the Calverts sent her away to a state-run facility where she was treated with extreme cruelty. The story shifts to Helen, who was living in Vienna, working as a nanny for a large family which included a daughter Brigitta with disabilities, who was especially close to Helen. As the Germans worked to cleanse society of undesirables, their T4 euthanasia program threatened the life of Brigitta. When Helen eventually returned to the United States, she worked to uncover what happened to Rosie and her child.

Author Susan Meissner is a master at historical fiction that tugs at the heart. Only the Beautiful is a deeply moving story which brings to light the horrible truth that not only were the Germans conducting despicable efforts during WWII to eliminate people with disabilities, but the United States also had eugenics programs, with forced sterilizations of women who were deemed unsuitable to ever have children. I was filled with emotion throughout this well-researched book. Both Rosie and Helen's stories were compelling and heartbreaking. I have read most of Meissner's books and have enjoyed every one of them. I'm so pleased that her new book is also wonderful.

Many thanks to Berkley Books for the opportunity to read Only the Beautiful in advance.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Historical Fiction.

Publication Date: April 18, 2023.

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