Secrets She Kept by Cathy Gohlke is a marvellous Christian historical novel that will consume your thoughts and your every waking moment. At the heart of the novel are secrets and choice. We all must choose when we stand at crossroads in life. We always have the choice to do the right thing. We do not always choose what happens to us but we can choose our responses.
The novel is set over two time periods – 1938-1945 in Nazi Germany and 1972 in America and Germany. The voices are those of mother and daughter and in the first person as they alternate the chapters.
Germany in 1972 was still feeling the after effects of the war. “What they think about life, how they viewed the Reich and Hitler’s accomplishments or even executions … I would be very surprised if much of that has changed in their minds.” Fear still lived in the hearts of the Jewish survivors as they realised “prejudice does not disappear because laws change.” There were still German survivors of the war who still believed that they did no wrong. This is utterly, utterly horrifying and had a profound effect on me as I read.
The guilty parties felt no guilt. However subsequent generations who learnt about the sins of the fathers were consumed by guilt. They desired to atone for the murder of the six million but how can you ever atone for that? Guilt and hate will cripple. “Don’t hate… that’s a prison worse than Ravensbruck.” There are some things that we carry that seem impossible to put down. It is then that we must ask God for His help to forgive. Not in our strength but in His. We must release ourselves from the grip of hate.
Not all Germans were Nazis. “I wear the uniform because I must.” There were ordinary men and women who did extraordinary acts of courage in order to help others.
In contrast there were families who would denounce their own children. Their misplaced loyalty to Hitler was greater than their love for family. One Hitler Youth member said this of his dying mother: “She’s draining our finances and her life is no longer productive.” Horrifying, absolutely horrifying. There are no words.
Some of the novel is set in Ravensbruck concentration camp. There are some harrowing scenes to read but there is also great hope and love as the name of Jesus is preached. “Our circumstances don’t dictate our reality.” Jesus’ love was deeper than the pit of horror and hate.
The novel is about a search for roots begun in 1972. A character wants to know the truth about her mother. What she uncovers is not what she was expecting. The survivors of war always have a story but not always one that they tell.
Cathy Gohlke uses the literary device of pathetic fallacy as the storm on the outside mirrors the turmoil on the inside.
Secrets She Kept is a compulsive read. It is a harrowing read. It is a hope filled read. I could not put it down. Cathy Gohkle has captured the horrors of war as well as the bravery of ordinary Germans. This book will break your heart whilst simultaneously feed your faith with the goodness of God and of some of our fellow man.
This book needs to be read in memory of the six million innocents. We must keep their memory alive.
I received this book for free. A favourable review was not required and all views expressed are my own.
Muddy Pearl Publishers website: https://muddypearl.com/books/secrets-she-kept/