No one wanted to be the first US Ambassador to Hitler’s Germany. It was 1933; Hitler and his Nazi party had risen to power promising a renewed and powerful Germany but stories of the beatings and hatred of Jews and other minorities were beginning to leak out of Berlin. Newly-elected President Franklin Roosevelt had to personally call William Dodd, an easy-going history professor at the University of Chicago, to convince him to fill the vacancy. Reluctantly, Dodd accepted the job with the caveat that his wife, son and flamboyant daughter accompany him. Dodd’s daughter, Martha, began to get noticed at Nazi Party functions leading her father to believe she was in over her head. As the author succinctly stated, “These were complicated people moving through a complicated time, before the monsters declared their true nature.” This well-written glimpse into the lives and machinations of the Nazi inner circle is an excellent read.
In The Garden of Beasts
The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
Thousands of miles and nearly two decades separate the lives of Tommy Capello, a convicted bank robber doing time in Alcatraz prison, and Shanley Keegan, an 11-year old orphan living in Dublin, Ireland. Tommy’s story launches readers into Alcatraz prison in 1937, where he watches and listens from inside the warden’s greenhouse as prison guards search for the missing daughter of a fellow guard. Acutely aware of what’s at stake, Tommy can only hope they don’t find the girl. In Dublin, Ireland in 1919, Shanley Keegan, aspires to be a vaudevillian. He performs in local pubs to often bellicose or indifferent customers and turns his earnings over to his abusive, alcoholic uncle. Shan wants more out of life than this and jumps at the opportunity to travel by ship to America with his uncle. Fate has other plans for Shan. Easily moving between time and characters, this intricately-plotted story of loyalty and sacrifice is captivating and satisfying.
Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
Meet Britt-Marie, a Scandinavian housewife whose tolerance of her husband’s philandering has finally ended. In need of a job and a place to live, she badgers a bewildered employment office worker into finding her work as the caretaker of a soon-to-be-closed recreation center in tiny, economically depressed Borg. Her neighbors include an enterprising teen whose business ventures are never completely legal; a vision-impaired ex-soccer star who “accidentally” hits people she doesn’t like with her cane; a shy policeman with a crush; a rat that likes Snickers; and a youth soccer team in desperate need of a coach. As Britt-Marie is drawn into their passions, dreams, and schemes, she begins to consider what she wants out of her own life, and both she and the town of Borg find something they thought they’d lost forever: hope.