Book Club: When Time Stopped

I know that I normally do my book club book review on the last Friday of the month.  However, I was so excited to share my new CAUSEBOX last week that I kind of forgot that it was the end of the month.  In all honesty though, I actually had not finished reading the book last week.  I know that I have had plenty of time to read lately, and I said I was going to jump on reading my March pick, When Time Stopped by Ariana Neumann, when this whole coronavirus thing began. I did try to start reading the book, but I had a really hard time getting into it initially. This book is the real-life story of the author’s quest to find the truth of her father’s secret past and survival during the Holocaust.   I honestly had high hopes for this story as I have read many historical fiction books about the same time period. I was fascinated with the thought of reading about a real-life story during that time.  Unfortunately, I was struggling at the beginning because it just wasn’t holding my interest. I found myself having to reread pages and paragraphs because I had zoned out.  In the initial chapters the author was setting up the story and how she came to find out that her father even had a secret past.  She was introducing a lot of the characters who had similar names and I was having a hard time keeping them all straight in my head and how they connected to the story as a whole.  It wasn’t until around chapters 10 and 11 that she really got to the meat of the story and where my interest picked up.  Although I still find the events of that time period very intriguing and the storyline did eventually develop, I really didn’t enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. I didn’t hate it and did find parts of it very interesting. It just didn’t seem to live up to my expectations.

Ariana Neumann’s father was Jewish man who grew up in Prague and was a young man when Germany first occupied the Czech Republic.  Although he was not a practicing Jew, “for the Nazis, Judaism was not a choice but a ‘race’ determined by your grandparents. What you believed or practiced did not matter; what was important was your genetic makeup.”  Neumann only learned that her father had a secret past after his death when she found a box of documents, letters, and photographs that her father had left for her. For most of her childhood in Venezuela, she was even unaware that her family was Jewish as her father never spoke to anyone of his past.  One of the documents she found in the box was an identification card that had a photograph of her father but identified him as someone under a totally different name and date of birth.  This box led her on a journey of discovering that her father had lived a terrifying, secret life in the wake of the Holocaust. Her investigation into his past led her to discover that her father lived under a false identity in order to avoid transport to one of the many Nazis concentration camps and a fate that many of his relatives were unable to avoid.  He ended up living in Berlin where he assumed a totally different identity while hiding in plain sight under the noses of the Germans. This is a story of tragedy, deception, extreme bravery, and the will to survive under the harshest of conditions during one of history’s most tragic periods.  Along Neumann’s journey in her search for the truth, she discovered a story that is unfathomable not only about her father but also about her grandparents, uncles, aunts, and other relatives endured at the hands of the Nazis regime.  While it is hard for me to highly recommend this story to everyone, I do think that those interested in this period of time in history will find this story fascinating.  It truly is an unbelievable story of heroism and survival.  If you do choose to read this story, I urge you to be patient and stick with it in the beginning.  The story is slow to develop but once it does, it becomes more captivating.  

My pick for April is a #1 New York Times Bestselling novel entitled The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See.  It is the story of Li-yan, a girl who grew up in a remote mountain village in China among a family of tea farmers and members of the Akha people.  In this story, the arrival of a mysterious stranger, leads Li-Yan to question her life and the customs she grew up with.  This causes her to leave her family and begin a life in the modern world. Here is Apple Books’ review of this novel.

“Lisa See’s novel about one woman’s journey from southern China’s mountains to the tiny Los Angeles suburbs opens with an aphorism: “No coincidence, no story.” As a child, Li-yan lives among the Akha, picking tea with her family in the countryside. When her life turns upside-down, she heads to the city, carrying her home village’s customs while gathering her heart’s shattered pieces. Full of luminous prose and surprising plot twists that render its opening line prophetic, See’s deception of loss, love, and tea is spirited and inspiring.”

Will you come along and read with me? It is a great way to escape the chaos that is our lives during this coronavirus pandemic.  Let’s jump into a good book together. 

Anchored in a Good Book,

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