Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Alice's Review: While We're Far Apart

Summary:  In an unassuming apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, three lives intersect as the reality of war invades each aspect of their lives. Young Esther is heartbroken when her father decides to enlist in the army shortly after the death of her mother. Penny Goodrich has been in love with Eddie Shaffer for as long as she can remember; now that Eddie's wife is dead, Penny feels she has been given a second chance and offers to care for his children in the hope that he will finally notice her and marry her after the war. And elderly Mr. Mendel, the landlord, waits for the war to end to hear what has happened to his son trapped in war-torn Hungary.

But during the long, endless wait for victory overseas, life on the home front will go from bad to worse. Yet these characters will find themselves growing and changing in ways they never expected--and ultimately discovering truths about God's love... even when He is silent.

Review:  There is a lot I want to say about this novel.  First is if I had know it was faith-infused historical fiction, I wouldn't have read it.  I downloaded this novel for two reasons: it was a Kindle freebie and it's set during World War II.  When I started reading it, I didn't know the story would unfold the way it did.  The next thing I want to say is good thing I didn't know what I was getting into because this was one of the best novels I read this year.

The novel begins when Eddie, widower and father of two children, enlists leaving his children in need of a guardian while he was away.  To his surprise, slightly pathetic next door neighbor Penny - who is secretly in love with him - volunteers to watch them while he is away.  I know I may be a little harsh on Penny by saying she's pathetic , but sadly it's true.  She is the product of two overbearing parents who not only belittle her at every opportunity but are so protective she has no confidence in herself at all.  One of the joys of this novel is watching Penny grow from an insecure girl to a mature woman.  I absolutely disliked her in the beginning, she was mousy, needy and giving all at the same time.  I was surprised to see how much she changed.  More importantly, I thought her rebirth was completely believable.

Mainly the novel focuses on the life and relationships of Penny, the kids and Mr. Jacob Mendel, their landlord.  I loved the time I spent getting to know Mr. Mendel.  I do not know a lot about the Jewish faith.  I also have never read a novel which focused on a father's point of view, waiting for news of his Jewish son in war stricken Hungary.  It was so heartbreaking emotional.  I think Ms. Austin did a beautiful job of making Mr. Mendel's heartache and grief so real to me.  I also enjoying watching him heal from the loss of his wife and the uncertainty of his son's welfare. 

With each character Ms. Austin introduced, I was more and more engrossed in the story.  It flowed so easily.  And I really felt like I was a becoming part of their makeshift family.  I loved that there was a bit of mystery and romance.  I loved that there was hope. 

As I said earlier, I wouldn't have read this novel if I knew it discussed faith.  I think it didn't take anything away from the novel, in fact I think it added to it.  I was moved by their struggles with God, and their spiritual reawakening. 

Overall this novel was a great read and one I would have gladly paid for. 

Final Take:  4/5


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