Synopsis for Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum (2004):
For fifty years, Anna Schlemmer has refused to talk about her life in Germany during World War II. Her daughter, Trudy, was only three when she and her mother were liberated by an American soldier and went to live with him in Minnesota. Trudy's sole evidence of the past is an old photograph: a family portrait showing Anna, Trudy, and a Nazi officer, the Obersturmfuhrer of Buchenwald.
Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life.
The prologue immediately drew me into the story because Anna's husband/Trudy's stepfather has just died. We meet Anna and Trudy at his funeral, only to have none of the locals at the service come to Anna's home for the post-funeral reception. Not a single person. That's so outside the realm of the norm, such a sign of disrespect, that I had to know why they wanted to shun the women.
And the more I read, the more I wanted to know about everything to do with Anna.
Told by alternating between primarily the story of Anna in Germany in 1939-1945 and primarily the story of Trudy in 1997 Minnesota, the reader learns first-hand about the past Trudy seeks to know. Both women are strong and interesting, especially Anna, who truly does whatever is necessary to keep her daughter safe during the war.
Blum creates an emotional, vivid story about survival, making choices when there aren't any easy answers, and the price we pay for our decisions.
My overall personal rating of Those Who Save Us is an A.