Hello reader friends! Have you ever had a book just totally take your breath away, and make you totally oblivious to the outside world? I have, and Liz Tolsma’s When the Heart Sings did just that. I read it in one sitting, literally. Every time I told myself I needed to stop reading so I could get something done around the house, I just couldn’t break away. Thankfully there wasn’t too much to do – just cook dinner, which got done eventually 😉
About the Book
The Nazis have forced Natia and Teodor from their Polish farm to a labor camp. Separated, Natia is chosen to be the housekeeper for the camp’s overseer, and her husband Teodor is sent to work in the factory. Despite the strict camp rules–and the consequences for disobeying them–Natia finds a way to communicate with Teodor by sending messages through song as she passes Teodor’s dormitory.
But then Natia finds a Jewish orphan on the overseer’s doorstep. She is determined to protect the boy and raise him as the child she and her husband were unable to bear–but if her German captors discover how much she’s hiding, both she and Teodor may pay the ultimate price.
I’m going to be completely honest about something. I’m not sure I can find the words to show you how much this book affected me. Tolsma just pulls you into the story and doesn’t let go. She masterfully ends each break with a cliffhanger, making it pretty much impossible to put the book down, ever. Yes, make sure you leave a big slot of time to read this. Have tissues nearby as well. I won’t sugar coat it, this was a hard book for me to read. Not because of the author’s ability, not because of the story line, but because of the content. Tolsma tenderly shows you the horror that the Polish faced during this wicked time in history. It is not gruesome, or in great detail for that matter, but it is just enough to make you understand the cruelty and harshness the characters faced. I cannot even fathom the time and effort it took to write this story. As a reader, I was invested in the characters and it absolutely broke my heart to see all the horrid things that happened to them. They were like family to me. Imagine being Liz Tolsma and having to write it! Oh my word, I cannot even imagine it.
On top of this is probably the best villain I have read this year, Erich Fromm. I don’t often talk about villains, but Erich really got under my skin. He was so evil, such a bad character, in a good way. Tolsma did a fantastic job of creating his character. The marriage between him and Elfreide really makes you scratch your head, and for most of the book Elfreide’s attitude towards him is really a picture of how many people in an abusive relationship feel today. Erich Fromm is a character you will love to hate. I know, hate is a strong word, but trust me when I say you will have strong feelings towards this man. I enjoy reading about a good villain, someone who makes my blood boil, and has me reading more to see if they reach their ultimate demise. It’s just fiction, so we’re allowed to feel this way, right?
The attention to detail in this book is another thing that stood out to me. Even something simple like the children being excited in the beginning about riding on the train. Their innocence just pulls at your heart strings, but I imagine that several of the children felt that way in real life. Tolsma was able to capture the essence of each individual character throughout the chapters of this book in a way that made you feel like you have known them forever. There are several mini-themes in this book that give you hope. Hope of escaping a horrible situation. Hope that one day God will truly answer your prayers, in a way you never expect. Hope that love really does get you through. And hope that the God who created this world, loves you more than anything and will never leave your side. Even through all the tragedy, Tolsma was able to lift my spirits and remind me of the hope I should have everyday. Yes, this book will make you cry. Yes, this book will pull at your heart strings and leave you breathless. But it will also amaze you and remind you of the light that appears in a world of darkness.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. I was not required to write a favorable review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
About the Author
Passionate might best describe Liz Tolsma. She loves writing, research, and editing. Her passion shone through in her first novel which was a double award finalist. On any given day, you might find her pulling weeds in her perennial garden, walking her hyperactive dog, or curled up with a good book. Nothing means more to her than her family. She’s married her high-school sweetheart twenty-eight years ago. Get her talking about international adoption, and you might never get her to stop. She and her husband adopted three children, including a son who is a U.S. Marine, and two daughters.
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