Saturday, April 27, 2019

Review: Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

An intimate portrait of a friendship severed by history, and a sweeping saga of wartime, motherhood, and legacy by an award-winning novelist 

 East Village, 1989

Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava's father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war's final months? But now Ilse's ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother's letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.

 Berlin, 1933

As the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, Ilse and Renate find their friendship under siege--and Ilse's increasing involvement in the Hitler Youth movement leaves them on opposing sides of the gathering storm. Then the Nuremburg Laws force Renate to confront a long-buried past, and a catastrophic betrayal is set in motion... An unflinching exploration of Nazi Germany and its legacy, Wunderland is an at once a powerful portrait of an unspeakable crime history and a page-turning contemplation of womanhood, wartime, and just how far we might go in order to belong.

Kindle, 384 pages
 Published April 23rd, 2019
 by Crown Publishing Group
*****

Wunderland is a powerful story of relationships, whether between mother/daughter or girlfriends. The first chapter was captivating, the next few left me wondering - with big jumps in time, what was going on but after that, I was glued to my kindle...well sorta. Knowing I had some driving to do and with my need to continue reading I grabbed the audiobook (from Scribd) and listened to parts. Finally, in the wee hours of the morning I finished reading. This book got better the deeper I went.

While there are a number of books in the HF WW2 era I don’t recall too many books from the other side.  Beginning in 1933 Berlin things are changing and spiraling out of control for these 2 friends. The author vividly showcased the changes as Hilter started to take control, how the youth got caught up in the changing tide. The choices both Ilse and Renate make, have ramifications through the years.  Secrets don't always stay buried, it's through a series of letters delivered 50 years later that questions are answered.

Wunderland was a well written, well-researched story, heartbreaking in parts there were twists and turns to keep me on my toes. I'm still giving this book 5 stars for the captivating and unique storyline.  It's an emotional story and one that will stay with me for a long time.  Wunderland is a book I highly recommend.

My thanks to the publisher (via Netgalley) for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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