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The German Wife - riveting historical fiction that serves as a cautionary tale.

It is the early 1930s in Berlin. Once wealthy, Sofie Rhodes and her husband Jürgen are in financial ruin after the impact of the Depression. Jürgen is a scientist, and his expertise becomes of interest to the Nazi Party as they develop a program to build rockets to travel into space. While the couple abhors everything the new regime stands for, Jürgen is given no choice when recruited to join the top-secret project. Sofie is forced to distance herself from Mayim, her best friend, who is Jewish. During the years leading up to WWII, the family observes how the Nazi Party employed a well-constructed campaign to control and manipulate the German citizens. They exploited underlying antisemitism and rallied people to a near frenzy with hopes of a better country. It was essentially a massive brainwashing.

In 1950, Sofie and two of her children travel to Huntsville, Alabama to be reunited with Jürgen, who has been living in the United States for several years. He had been selected to work for Operation Paperclip, a post-WWII intelligence program where skilled German scientists, including some former leaders of the Nazi Party, were brought over to the U.S. to provide help in Cold War initiatives including developing rockets, biological and chemical weapons. But life in the U.S. was hard as the Americans were outraged that they were now neighbors to an enclave of former Nazis. The government sought to help their German employees and their families meet and socialize with the Americans but there was too much hate and distrust. At a community gathering, Sofie found herself in a tense argument with the wife of Jürgen’s boss Calvin. Lizzie Miller was not going to give Sofie a chance at friendship given the Rhodes’ Nazi affiliation and Sofie lashed out noting the contradiction of the town’s policy of segregation and prejudice against Blacks.

Lizzie’s story is also told. Her family’s Texas farm was ruined during the tragic years of the Dust Bowl and the Depression. She and her brother Henry did what they had to do to survive. Once Lizzie married Calvin, a wealthy and widowed older man, she moved to Alabama and after the war, Henry moved there too. Lizzie dealt with tremendous trauma from all her losses.

Kelly Rimmer is a wonderful author who meticulously researches her books. The Things We Cannot Say, and The Warsaw Orphan are terrific. In The German Wife, Rimmer has created a very emotional, complex story. She shows how some good people were swept into the Nazi ideology – even if they didn’t truly believe in it. The Rhodes family were faced with a moral dilemma and did what they felt they had to do to protect their family. They were under surveillance and threatened. Did they have a choice? Rimmer doesn’t condone and absolve them of their behavior. Instead, she has created a thoughtful, cautionary tale showing how madness and evil can quickly spread.

There are few heroes in this book. Jürgen’s Aunt Adele is perhaps the only purely likable person as she was willing to act against the Nazis. This book shows how fragile the world was and still is as hate can rise up and spread at any time. This book is going to stay with me for a long time.

Many thanks to Graydon House | Harlequin Trade Publishing | HarperCollins for the opportunity to read The German Wife in advance of its publication.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Historical Fiction.

Publication Date: June 28, 2022.

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