Like A River From Its Course
This story is about the Second World War in Ukraine told through the eyes of four differing characters, told in separate chapters. We experience the war as told by Soviet people in the form of a young teenager taken into forced labour, a non-Jewish father who survived the Babi Yar event who then had to watch as his three children are taken from him either into the Army or taken as German forced labourers. We also have the story of a young woman gang raped by German soldiers who falls pregnant and then falls in love with another German soldier and finally we are told the story from a young German soldiers point of view in his efforts to please his exacting father who mixes with Nazi leadership including the Fuhrer himself.
Very early in the piece we are taken to Babi Yar, where 34,000 people (Jews) were killing in a sadistic manner in being shot in the head after watching other people being killed right in front of them. It is told in a sensitive manner, yet its raw brutality is no lesser for it. We then, over the course of the war learn about the four different characters as they experience war as an occupier or an occupied nation.
Stuart weaves a remarkable tale in which finally all four main characters become entwined, but there is no happy endings for everyone. The stories remain clear cut from each other and never become a confusing mess. Stuart writes in a straight forward manner, keeping the pacing of the story moving along nicely over the course of the war. The nature of both family and romantic relationships is explored, as is the relationship between captive and captor through the characters and their experiences.
I appreciate that this book is classified Christian Historical but thankfully there isn’t any Bible bashing going on. In fact, for the most part, it could be seen as a secular novel expect for one section in which a main character and his wife explore faith and what God can be in their lives. It’s taken from a Catholic or Russian Orthodox point of view, but the truths told are found in all Christian belief systems and it is told sympathetically. It does not preach and take away from the reading pleasure that is so easily written into the narrative.