Today I have a review of Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein, publishing via Crown today, April 23, 2019!
I never tire of stories of friendship. Wunderland is a story of enduring friendship that will stand the test of time.
Told in two timelines, the first is in New York in 1989. Ava and her mother, Ilse, haven’t gotten along. There’s this empty space between them filled with unanswered questions, important ones. Ava wants to know who her father is. She has no idea where Ilse was during World War II.
Ilse has passed away, and her ashes arrive from Germany. Along with her ashes are unsent letters to Renate Bauer, a childhood friend of Ilse’s, completely unknown to Ava.
The letters hold the answers to many of Ava’s questions and then some. Ilse’s dark past is revealed to her daughter, and Ava realizes she never truly knew her mother.
The second timeline is Berlin in 1933. The Nazi party is gaining power, and Ilse and Renate’s friendship is becoming questionable. Ilse is more involved in Hitler Youth, and Renate does not feel the same.
When the Nuremberg Laws are enforced, something big about Renate’s family is unfurled, and a huge betrayal happens.
I also never tire of these World War II stories. There are neverending perspectives and lessons to be learned. Here we learn about how a child might choose to “belong” by joining a movement with catastrophic consequences. The author deftly shows how a child can be brainwashed into believing a dogma and how hate could divide friendships and families.
Wunderland is about how the small decisions we make can leave everlasting impressions. It’s about intergenerational trauma, friendship, being a woman during wartime, and ultimately, being fallible and human. It’s about how silence can speak louder than words and tear families and loved ones apart.
This book is stunning and heart-wrenching and everything I want in a book I have relished.
I received a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.
An intimate portrait of a friendship severed by history, and a sweeping saga of wartime, motherhood, and legacy by an award-winning novelist
East Village, 1989
Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava’s father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war’s final months? But now Ilse’s ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother’s letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.
As the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, Ilse and Renate find their friendship under siege–and Ilse’s increasing involvement in the Hitler Youth movement leaves them on opposing sides of the gathering storm. Then the Nuremburg Laws force Renate to confront a long-buried past, and a catastrophic betrayal is set in motion…
An unflinching exploration of Nazi Germany and its legacy, Wunderland is a at once a powerful portrait of an unspeakable crime history and a page-turning contemplation of womanhood, wartime, and just how far we might go in order to belong.
Have you read Wunderland, or is it on your TBR? Happy Reading! ~ Jennifer THR