Award-winning historical fiction author Cathy Gohlke pens a novel with two parallel stories: one set in Hitler’s Germany (1943-1945), the other in more contemporary times (1973).
In Secrets She Kept, a young woman wants to find out about her mother’s mysterious past after her estranged mother’s death. Hannah Sterling takes a leave from her teaching job to sort through her mother’s house and finds letters that connect her to a grandfather still living in Germany. When Hannah travels to Germany and gets to know her grandfather, she discovers he is hiding secrets of his own.
During the war, Hannah’s grandfather (Lieselotte’s father) planned on marrying his daughter off to advance his career in the Nazi party. But Lieselotte loves another (Lukas), someone her father disapproves — she doesn’t know to what extent her father will go to in order to prevent her marriage to Lukas.
The stories are told from Hannah’s and her mother’s viewpoints. The secrets of their past are intertwined. The book is well-researched and rich in historical detail, realistically depicting life in Nazi Germany. Hannah’s grandfather resists disclosing his secrets until he is on his deathbed. The discovery of his secret explains her mother’s past and threatens Hannah’s future. The overall theme of the book is forgiveness, even in the midst of evil. The focus is on family secrets that shape the destiny of future generations.
Secrets She Kept was the 2016 Christy Award Winner and the 2016 Carol Award Winner. A hidden gem in Secrets She Kept is the lesson on forgiveness Hannah learns from a Dutch Christian whose identity is revealed in the final chapter.
Highly recommended for adult collections in public library collections and World War II historical fiction fans.
Carol R. Gehringer