You guys. I think this might be one of the best–if not THE best–Christian fiction book I have ever read. It’s right up there with Redeeming Love, y’all. The book in question is Kate Breslin’s debut novel, For Such a Time, and I was sent a complimentary copy of this novel as part of Bethany House Publishers‘ book review program.
Here is a description of the book from the publisher:
A powerful retelling of the story of Esther during WWII: Blond and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin must save her people—even if she cannot save herself.
In 1944, blond and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.
Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.
Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?
As usual, my five point review:
- This book was spectacular. I’ve read many books about the Holocaust [fiction and nonfiction] and about WWII–my favorite war [as odd as that sounds], and this rates right up there with the best. Sometimes historical fiction walks a weird line between truth and make believe, and the balance is just right in this novel.
- It’s also nice that this book is not just a recitation of the Biblical book of Esther but rather a unique story. There are certainly parallels, and Breslin’s book generally follows the outline of Esther but in a way that departs from the original storyline. Each chapter begins with a verse from Esther and various character names are chosen as a nod to Esther [i.e. Uncle Morty]. Though I’m certainly not opposed to fiction books following a Biblical storyline, I thought the author does a great job staying true to the gist of Esther but being creative.
- Lately some of the WWII-era books I’ve been reading have had likeable German characters, including this story. It’s not like I believed that Germans during WWII were all bad–I realize a country, even in wartime, has diversity. But many books paint Germans as one dimensional Nazis, perhaps because of how Nazis and by extension, Germans, have been written about in history. So I appreciate seeing the change in Aric throughout the course of the novel, and find it really interesting to consider. I have no idea how many German officers/soldiers helped Jews or other marginalized people during WWII but now I’m interested to research that.
- Speaking of research, this novel was well researched. There was a great amount of detail and the end of the book was filled with the author’s description of how she researched, her bibliography, etc. As a librarian, I appreciate that!
- As with every good novel… there’s really a great romance in this book. It’s realistic and adorable. You can’t help but root for their success, especially at the end. You’ll just have to read it and see! This is an awesome book that I’ll read time and time again. Five out of five stars, for sure!
What are you reading lately?
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!