All her life, Hannah Sterling longed for a close relationship with her estranged mother. Following Lieselotte’s death, Hannah determines to unlock the secrets of her mother’s mysterious past and is shocked to discover a grandfather living in Germany.
Thirty years earlier, Lieselotte’s father is quickly ascending the ranks of the Nazi party, and a proper marriage for his daughter could help advance his career. Lieselotte is in love―but her beloved Lukas is far from an ideal match, as he secretly works against the Reich. Yet Lieselotte never imagined how far her father would go to ensure her cooperation.
Both Hannah’s and Lieselotte’s stories unfold as Hannah travels to Germany to meet her grandfather, who is hiding wartimes secrets of his own. Longing for connection, yet shaken by all she uncovers, Hannah must decide if she can atone for her family’s tragic past and how their legacy will shape her future.
Cathy Gohlke newest book, Secrets She Kept, gripped my heart and made me ache for Lieselotte’s obstruction to a happy, normal life. Gohlke has written another World War II novel, Saving Amelie, and I truly enjoyed that book too. But her newest release, Secrets She Kept, ranked higher. I truly loved this book from the unique perspective on World War II to the trail of secrets that Hannah had to follow to discover more about her mother.
I really enjoyed the research and the story world that Gohlke created. Majority of World War II novels feature a character that had to survive the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazi’s, but Gohlke does include this, but the story doesn’t hinge on that incident. The majority of the dilemma centered on Hannah’s grandfather who ascended the ranks of the Nazi party and her brother, Rudy, who was proud to be a Nazi Youth. I really enjoyed seeing this different perspective on World War II. I knew how awful they were but to see the horror from Lieselotte’s perspective was haunting and memorable. I got swept away in the conflict occurring in and around Lieselotte and Hannah’s lives.
The plot features two different points of views. The first one occurs during the late 1930’s and through the years of World War II. This timeline is the story of Lieselotte and the struggles she had with her father and brother, who wanted her to be a proud Aryan woman who would bring honor to her father. On the other hand, I empathized with Hannah, Lieselotte’s daughter who struggled with her identity and just wanted to have some connection with a family. Both women were strong and heroic, not afraid of anything or anyone. Both timelines alternated nicely. I was never confused when the chapters changed point of views.
Secrets she Kept shows how hard forgiveness can be and how secrets can fester and ruin a person. Lieselotte had a really hard time with accepting God and his offer of forgiveness, especially after the entire dreadfulness she had seen in her life. Similarly, Hannah had a hard time forgiving her grandfather after learning all he had done during World War II. The secret’s Hannah’s grandfather kept all these years had damaged his life, something Hannah had to learn not to hold onto, or it would ruin her too.
The only problem I had with the story was anchoring the reader in the setting. When Gohlke described Lieselotte’s childhood home when Lieselotte was younger and when Hannah came to visit, it wasn’t really detailed. I knew there was a library, a kitchen, and a bedroom, but my imagination was allowed to roam free. In comparison, the images at the concentration camp were detailed and sickening to image. I felt sick to my stomach as I read those gruesome scenes.
In short, Cathy Gohlke’s Secrets She Kept is an emotionally gripping story that shows the affects of the Nazi’s on their families and stayed with me long after I finished reading the book. Fans of other World War II stories should pick this book up and get lost in the pages. The dual narrative tugged at my heart while I anxiously traveled this journey to learn the truth with Lieselotte and Hannah.
I received a complimentary copy of Secrets She Kept from Tyndale Publishing and the opinions stated are all my own.
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Cathy Gohlke's Writing Bio:
Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Saving Amelie, Band of Sisters, Promise Me This (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2012), William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2008), which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book of the Year Award.
Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children's and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between Northern Virginia and their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland.
Where to connect with Cathy Gohlke:
Where to purchase Secrets She Kept:
Your favorite local bookstore
What aspect of the World War II horror sticks with you the most? Why?