Plot Summary: Beth Bridgewater is an American Quaker living with her aunt and uncle in wartorn Germany, WWII. It’s a dangerous time and place to be, where one must keep quiet and try to stay safe. But Beth seems to involve herself in nothing but trouble while trying to help others less fortunate. When her uncle takes on a surprising new tenant, Josef, no one is quite sure if he can be trusted. Josef is involved in his own dangerous plans to make his beloved Germany free again, and together Beth and Josef may be able to make a difference in others’ lives.
My Book Review: I was curious to read this book because the combination of pacifist Quakers during a WWII setting seemed an interesting story line. I’m not sure that I’ve ever read a fiction book featuring a Quaker heroine before. I also had forgotten that I have several Quaker ancestors going back to the 1600’s.
I was glad to discover the author wrote with some depth—in no way did I feel the story was tacky or shallow. The chapters weren’t too lengthy, had some amount of chapter breaks, and I could make quick progress when I applied myself.
I loved reading about the interesting story setting during such a dangerous time: Munich, Germany. What would it be like to live in a place where literally anyone at anytime could be arrested for any little excuse? Anna Schmidt did an excellent job at capturing the fear permeating everyday life of ordinary people. I also enjoyed her descriptions which provided realistic atmosphere to the story. I could feel the heat, see the colors, and hear the sounds she wrote about.
However, nearing midway through the book, I found myself not really feeling too concerned for the characters. I felt that the story was told somewhat at ‘arm’s length’, meaning that only the parts of the story that were ‘convenient’ were related, with chunks of time left out or glossed over. I can see the author not wanting to bog us down with scenes unnecessary to the plot. But it interrupted the flow of the story and made me feel distanced from the characters.
I was able to learn more concerning Quakers as I read about Beth and her family, but was surprised to learn how much their faith is different from my own. The book is appropriately titled, “All God’s Children,” a strong prevalent belief in Quaker teaching. A character makes a statement in the book that even Hitler was born with the Inner Light, but must have eventually closed himself off to it. I cannot agree. I don’t want to make this book review a full-out theological debate, but as an evangelical Christian I believe no one can be born at physical birth into the kingdom of God. We either choose to accept His gracious gift of eternal life or not. However, I will add that in my reading up on Quakers, I learned that different sects of Quakers believe a myriad of different things (some are closer to evangelical Christianity), so they may not all hold with this particular belief. I went into this story knowing I was going to be reading of people different from myself, but I do make a bit of an argument for this particular book being categorized under Christian fiction. Inspirational category, perhaps, but not Christian.
The romance between Josef and Beth is a healthy love story without becoming edgy. The devotion they had for each other during such a serious time in history was admirable, especially near the end where the plot takes an unexpected twist and the characters make decisions when they are unsure what will happen next. But I had to wonder a little about the obvious unequally yoked relationship they had. Beth is a devout Quaker. Josef doesn’t seem to have any religious beliefs when they form their relationship together and Beth doesn’t seem to have a problem with this. SPOILER ALERT: Though Josef does start to embrace Beth’s faith near the end of the story, this is after the two have married. END OF SPOILER.
The last quarter stretch of the book definitely had me on the edge of my seat! It was one of those adrenaline rush endings where you’re not sure who will make it in the end. If you’re interested in something a little different than the usual WWII historical novels, this book might interest you.
Despite some of my disagreements, I am interested in reading the next books in the series:
3) “Safe Haven”