When We Were Innocent by Kate Hewitt is a powerful and heart breaking dual timeline novel.
This is a book that will mess with your emotions as we follow a character through a myriad of emotions as her gentle father is charged with Nazi war crimes. All she has ever known about her father is in opposition and comes crashing down. “This is my dad, and I love him. I know I do, even if it’s hard. Even if I’m not sure I should anymore.” Her love for her father is in conflict.
The novel is set in 1942 – 1943 in Sobibor and also in present day America. It alternates chapters between the time periods and the voices – her father in 1942 and the leading lady in present day. The story is told in the first person so we get to know the characters intimately, their emotions and their fears.
We witness a life unravel in 1942 as choices are made with disastrous consequences. Undoing one’s choices was not possible under Nazi rule. “He made choices … Everyone must face the consequences of their actions.” A character has lived with his choices for seventy years. He kept silent but his guilt remains.
To stay silent is to condone and to be compliant. As Edmund Burke said evil flourishes when good men do nothing.
The reader joins the characters in Sobibor. It is a sickening place to be. There are some dreadful sights.
We see the bravery of the young girl – she cannot save everyone but she hopes to save two.
When We Were Innocent is an emotional ride. It is a powerful read and one that will leave you in tatters. I can highly recommend it.
I received a free copy via Net Galley. A favourable review was not required. All opinions are my own.