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Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was a just a kid, her mom died when she was seventeen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well. But when she’s laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea…until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky. That woman is recognizable as her grandmother—and the painting arrived with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, “He always loved her.”
Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig. And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history. Her trail leads her to the POW internment camps of Florida, where German prisoners worked for American farmers...and sometimes fell in love with American women. But how does this all connect to the painting? The answer to that question will take Emily on a road that leads from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany and back to the Atlanta art scene before she’s done.
Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she’s seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history. But she still has secrets, ones she’s been keeping locked inside for years. Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last?
Another beautifully written story by Kristin Harmel... :) It was so moving and touched me in a very personal way. Each time I read a Kristin Harmel book I find myself reflecting on the life wisdom that is very quietly laced within the pages. Her books are not just stories, they are an opportunity to reflect on the things that are most important in life.
After I finished this book the one thing that I came away with was this: If you are always looking to the past, you can never move toward the future. The characters in this story, both past and present, were all running from the past while at the same time holding on to lost dreams, lost loves and things that could never be changed. By doing so, they were unable to truly live in the present. There was always a hole in them that could not be filled.
The story moves back and forth from present to past as we follow the character Emily. She is searching for information about a mysterious painting that shows up right after her grandmothers passing. The story behind the painting reveals a secret to her grandmothers life during WWII when she lived in Florida and worked in the sugar cane fields.
While working in the fields, she meets a German POW named Peter Dahler. He was immediately drawn to this beautiful American girl named Margaret and they both fell in love. It was a bittersweet time because they both knew that they would eventually be separated. After he is sent back to Germany when the war ended, life spiraled into an uncertain direction and he was desperate to find a way back to both the woman and the country he fell in love with during his time there.
I loved how the past lives of Margaret and Peter so very closely mimicked the present lives of Emily and her father. All of them had made unforgiveable mistakes, all of them guilty of running from a past of which they could never really let go. Emily's search for the story behind the painting was not only a search for her grandmother's history, it was also an opportunity for her to reflect on her own life and the importance of forgiveness and letting go of the past.
I loved how this story reflected on how toxic it can be for someone to hold on to hate and anger. Sometimes we have to learn to forgive not only the people who have hurt us, but we must also learn to forgive ourselves. There is so much power in letting go of things you cannot change and choosing to give people chances even when they don't deserve them.
This is a beautifully written story that is both inspiring and heartfelt. There is tragedy in the pages but also triumph. The way the mistakes of those from the past became a salve for the present was truly inspiring and brought a few tears to my eyes.
Lovers of Historical Fiction will definitely want to add this book to their to read pile. It's original, heartfelt and will leave you in need of hug, or a glass of wine... or chocolate! Whatever makes you feel better. :)
5 Heartfelt Stars!