We are confident that through the hard work of tilling the fertile American soil, our enemies will become our allies! (…) Thank you in advance for your enthusiastic support of your country’s effort!
That is almost how the book starts, and my first thought? What a brilliant way to keep all your exclamation marks in your manuscript, haha! You simply get yourself a set of very exuberant characters, who use lots of adverbs and exclamation points. Just a thought…
Things We Didn’t Say is a book set in WWII in Minnesota, written entirely through letters, telegrams and notes. What a wonderful way to tell a story! It starts with a prologue, the letter to an attorney. Then follows the very enthusiastic letter that I quoted. And the story is off! The letters do show people’s individual characters quite well, I felt, although Johanna became kinder, gentler, and more like the others over time. I loved her not-posted letters; they were more unique, but obviously not sent for a reason…
I loved Jo, after a while. I could just imagine her, reading the letters, answering them. Various people are introduced, with Johanna Berglund at the centre. As it tells you in the blurb (just saying, I would hate to drop a spoiler on you!), Johanna has to return home to work as a translator at the POW camp. I could imagine her dread (for different reasons, as I hate translating!), and she has many reasons to resist returning home. Those reasons come out during the book, in sensitive ways, and they provide various unexpected twists and turns.
Johanna changes over time as she interacts with the prisoners at the camp. I loved reading about others around her, and how her views of them changed. Interesting especially is her relationship with God. Over time, we learn why that relationship is rather strained… Then there is the blossoming relationship with Peter Ito, will it go anywhere? So much tension during wartime, so much grief and danger. It makes any relationship a risk. Family tensions came out well. There is a particularly lovely piece where Johanna talks about her mother, having learned and understood her mother in a completely new way.
“Sometimes showing grace breaks us before it heals us. Forgiveness can feel like a betrayal of justice. We want others to deserve grace, or at least ask for it.”Things We Didn’t Say, Pg 142
There are some beautiful quotables in this book, some wonderful thought-provoking sentences that I ended up reading twice (even though I was rushing through to the end as I was desperate to know how it would all end!). My favourite is the one that Amy Lynn Green has put in the study notes at the end, “Sometimes showing grace breaks us before it heals us. Forgiveness can feel like a betrayal of justice. We want others to deserve grace, or at least ask for it.” Isn’t that just truth?
That is another lovely point, there are study notes at the end of the book, with some great questions. I actually read them before I read the book, and I couldn’t wait to learn more. You also feel you want to learn more about Minnesota and its towns with a Scandinavian heritage. Amy Lynn Green, despite not having a Scandinavian heritage herself, wanted to reflect that part of Minnesota, and I love the research she put into the book, including recipes (Food is always great for research!).
I loved Amy’s debut novel and would love to know what happened to the characters. All of the characters… It’s one of those books where you could imagine an entire series of spin-offs! I really enjoyed reading this book, and I’m looking forward to reading more by this author. Things We Didn’t say is available from bookshops, and was published by Bethany House
It might be her first novel, but Amy was the 2014 winner of the Family Fiction short story contest, and her articles have been featured in Crosswalk, Focus on the Family magazines, and other faith-based publications over the past 10 years. In the acknowledgements, the author provides you with lots of information where you can find more about POW camps. I loved that Amy shared this with us, as I love historical books that will give you a place to start looking at the period in which the book is set.
I was given a free copy for review purposes but there was no obligation to give a positive review. These views are my own; I was under no pressure at all, either from the writer or the publisher. This review was written as part of the Love Books Tours