Tyndale House Publishers, ISBN 9781414383224, 2014
Saving Amelie contrasts the best and worst of humanity. During WWII, while Hitler’s army presses into Poland and later into France there is a darker, more sinister plan unfolding in the Fatherland. The plans that Hilter outlined in his autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf, are coming to fruition. Jews are being persecuted and oppressed, herded into concentration camps, or blatantly murdered. Anyone perceived as being a drain on German society – the infirmed and mentally or physically handicapped – are described as having ‘life unworthy of life’. They are collected and disposed of, murdered, as part of the nation’s blossoming eugenics program. Standing in opposition to this evil was the resistance network. They were people who demonstrated courage by risking their lives to aide those hunted by the SS and the Reich. They fought the ultimate battle of good vs evil.
Amelie was born to a prominent SS commander and his wife Kristine. By her 4th year of life her father, desperate to maintain his status as one of the Reich’s genetically elite, plots to dispose of Amelie and her mother. Amelie is the embodiment of innocence. She is trapped in her silent world desperate to understand the fear and turmoil around her. Little Amelie inspires others to bold faith and costly grace as they attempt to preserve her life.
Rachel Kramer, daughter to renowned eugenic scientist Dr. Rudolph Kramer, is the person whom Kristine entrusts to save her daughter. Reluctant at first, Rachel enlists Jason Young, an American journalist, to help her plan an escape to the provincial town of Oberammergau. Rachel’s character is difficult to love or even like in the beginning, but she shows a lot of growth over the course of the book! From her prideful beginnings Rachel is humbled and transformed.
SS officer Gerhardt Schlick was the antithetic of Amelie. Evil oozed from him in every scene. His character was smug, conniving, ruthless, completely deplorable and to the author’s credit well conceived.
I thoroughly enjoyed the historical aspect of Saving Amelie. It had an authentic feel and a smooth flow. Cathy Gohlke immerses her reader in the culture, art, and scenic beauty of the Bavarian village of Oberammergau. She also provided an introductory course in the teachings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the pseudo-science of eugenics which I found fascinating.
In what was probably an effort to convey the passage of time, I felt that portions of the story became bogged down with superfluous details. It was not so much so that it made me want to put the book down, in fact there were a few heart-wrenching revelations that compelled me to read past my bedtime.
If you like to read past your bedtime too…add Saving Amelie to your summer reading list.
I award Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke 4 out of 5 stars.
About the Author:
Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award–winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Promise Me This, William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires, which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers’ Book of the Year Award and was listed by Library Journal as one of the Best Books of 2008.
Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children’s and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, make their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland. Visit her website at http://www.cathygohlke.com.