Review By Veronica

The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer is a gripping and emotional story about two women willing to do anything to protect their families.

Favourite Quote:

“You get tonight to sulk, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes. But tomorrow, you get up, you get out of bed, and you carry on. It’s not always the strongest trees that survive the storm. Sometimes it’s the trees that bend with the wind. And you, my treasure, find yourself right in a hurricane.” She dropped her voice to the barest of whispers, so faint I had to strain to hear her even though her lips were against my ear as she added, “ They insist you become a Nazi, so you pretend to be the best damned Nazi you can be. You will always know deep down inside what is true and what is right and they cannot touch your heart. But you have no choice now about the façade you present. Your husband and your children are counting on you to play the game.”

Goodreads Synopsis: 

Berlin, Germany, 1930—When the Nazis rise to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her academic husband benefit from the military ambitions of Germany’s newly elected chancellor when Jürgen is offered a high-level position in their burgeoning rocket program. Although they fiercely oppose Hitler’s radical views, and joining his ranks is unthinkable, it soon becomes clear that if Jürgen does not accept the job, their income will be taken away. Then their children. And then their lives.

Huntsville, Alabama, 1950—Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of many German scientists pardoned and granted a position in America’s space program. For Sofie, this is a chance to leave the horrors of her past behind. But when rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spread among her new American neighbors, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results tears apart a family and leaves the community wondering—is it an act of vengeance or justice?

This book is a dual timeline story told from Sofie and Lizzie’s POV. Both women are strong, intelligent, and love their families with every fiber in their bodies. They come together when Sofie moves to America to live with her husband, who is a part of a covert operation. I really enjoyed both of these characters. Their stories are raw, emotional, and filled with heartache. Sofie finds herself forced into a situation where if they (herself and her husband) do not follow and participate in the Nazi ideology, their family will be tortured and killed. As the story progresses, readers see Sofie (and her husband) struggle with following a belief system that horrifies them and grappling with the question: is their safety worth following an ideology that is hell-bent on destroying the Jewish population? Kelly masterfully wrote this moral struggle that Sofie went through. She showed readers that this grey moral zone exists during a war. Not all Germans believed in the Nazi ideology, but many went along with it because they feared what would happen to their families. Does that mean they should be held responsible for what the Nazi party did? I personally don’t know. This book makes me think about what it must have been like for those living in Germany during that time. 

Lizzie’s story is quite a bit different from Sofie’s. Lizzie and her family struggle to make ends meet because of a drought that has gone on for years. This is further compounded by the depression that is going on in the United States. Lizzie’s life is full of struggle and heartache, creating this need in her to change who she is to survive. Lizzie’s character shows readers the struggle many people went through during the depression.  

I have read A LOT of historical fiction books, and I am always amazed at how historical fiction authors can find new ways to approach the topic of World War II. The German Wife focuses on three main areas during and after the war; Operation Paper Clip, Hitler Youth, and how ordinary Germans learned to survive the Nazi Regime. For those who aren’t history buffs, Operation Paper Clip is an American covert operation that brought over German scientists to the United States, so they could work on their rocket project. This was a controversial operation because many of the Germans that were brought over, worked or were a part of the Nazi Regime. I loved learning more about this operation and seeing how it affected both the Germans that were brought over and the American citizens who now found themselves living with the enemy. Kelly did a fantastic job at bringing together the historical facts from that period and the raw emotions that came from being in that situation. I also loved the parts of the story that focused on the Hitler Youth, mainly because that is what my fourth-year honour’s paper was focused on. 

The German Wife is a riveting emotional book that will have you reach for a tissue or two and think how far you would go to protect your family. 

Thank you, HarperCollins Canada for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.