Updated: Aug 3
A brilliantly plotted and delightfully written family drama about strength, secrets and sacrifice
Beth Cohen wants to make the most of the time she has left with her elderly father, Max. He asks his daughter is to go through the long forgotten box of memorabilia from his days as a medic on the Western front. Among the war times souvenirs, Beth finds a surprising photograph of her father with an adoring beautiful stranger. It’s a picture worth a thousand questions and a journey into the past.
When Max Blumenthal meets Margarethe, the German wife of a Nazi officer his world shifts. Margarethe is actually a member of the resistance and their meeting in 1944 in Hürtgen Forest, Germany put them both at risk. After only one meeting, Max is willing to sacrifice everything to be with Margarethe. He even secures travel papers for her, allowing her to seek amnesty and safety at a border crossing.
Johanna Schiller is an aeronautical engineer and works for the German aerospace center designing faster, safer and more agile planes. She is one of only two women test pilots at the center. In order to keep her job Johanna must prove her heritage in order to receive her honorary Aryan status. But politics were changing and for Johanna building deadlier planes to protect German was one thing. Creating them to serve Hitler was quite another,
Across the Winding River is a sterling family drama that flows between WWII and the present time. It is a brilliantly plotted and delightfully woven story told through three narratives. While a slightly challenging read, the intersecting narratives makes the story of war, love, courage and sacrifice powerful.
My favorite part of the book is Author Aimie Runyan’s portrayal of three women of substance. I was particularly enamored with Johanna in 1944 and her ceiling-shattering career. Beth and Margarethe‘s characters also showed strength, fortitude and intelligence. This portrayal of strong women is exactly what is needed in literature today to serve as female role models and counter the stereotypical victim role for women.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Across the Winding River was that it was inspired by a true story. Runyan’s Author’s Notes provides a wealth of information about the basis for story and about Johanna’s character. I am extremely appreciative when a historical fiction author takes the time to distinguish between facts and fiction in the story.
Runyan does a fabulous job writing to celebrate history’s unsung heroines. She is the author of four previous historical novels including Daughters of the Night Sky, Girls on the Line, Promised to the Crown, and Duty to the Crown.
Thanks to Netgalley and Lake Union for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher Lake Union
Published August 1, 2020