When we meet Rachel Perlman, it’s 1955 and she’s living in New York City with her husband Aaron. Aaron is hoping to start a family with his wife of seven years but Rachel is trapped in the past and can’t move forward. Born in Berlin, she came to the U.S. in 1948 with her uncle, her only relative to survive the war. Through flashbacks, we learn how Rachel (born Rashka Morgenstern) and her mother, a talented artist, went from a comfortable life in Berlin to being stripped of all possessions. Jews were being rounded up and sent to the concentration camps. Her mother ultimately perished. Believing that all her mother’s artwork was destroyed, the emergence of one of her paintings in a New York pawnshop creates new struggles for Rachel.
Shadows of Berlin is a very moving story about how one survivor of the Holocaust deals with survivor’s guilt. Rachel's constant visions of her mother are heartbreaking. Author David R. Gillham has done an exceptional job describing the horrific existence of the people who tried to hide in plain sight as fellow neighbors and former friends were paid handsomely to turn Jews and other undesirables in to the Nazis. Once in New York, Gillham skillfully portrays the tension of a young couple who love one another yet are unable to understand what each are going through. In addition to Rachel’s predicament, Aaron lives with his own guilt as he was never shipped overseas to fight. His knowledge of what happened is only through tragic images on news reels. While this is a heavy story, I enjoyed all the references to New York City during the 50s, including places and restaurants that survive in my memories and in family stories. Unlike many books in this genre, Shadows of Berlin focuses on life after the war. I highly recommend it.
Many thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for the opportunity to read this tragic yet hopeful story in advance of its publication.
Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 5, 2022.
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