Daisies Are Forever
About This Book
In the final days of Nazi Germany, the strength of one woman’s heart will determine the fate of a family.
Prussia, 1945. The fall of the Third Reich is imminent. As the merciless Red Army advances from the East, the German people of Prussia await the worst.
Among them is twenty-year-old Gisela Cramer, an American living in Heiligenbeil with her cousin Ella and their ailing grandfather. When word arrives that the Russians will invade overnight, Ella urges Gisela to escape to Berlin—and take Ella’s two small daughters with her.
The journey is miserable and relentless. But when Gisela hears the British accent of a phony SS officer, she poses as his wife to keep him safe among the indignant German refugees. In the blink of an eye, Mitch Edwards and Gisela are Herr and Frau Joseph Cramer.
Through their tragic and difficult journey, the fabricated couple strives to protect Ella’s daughters, hoping against hope for a reunion. But even as Gisela and Mitch develop feelings beyond the make–believe, the reality of war terrorizes their makeshift family.
With the world at its darkest, and the lives of two children at stake, the counterfeit couple finds in each other a source of faith, hope, and the love they need to survive.
I REALLY wanted to like this book, but the further I got into it, the less engaged I felt as a reader until, by the last 100 pages, I was practically skimming.
While I understand the current industry trend of starting one’s novel in media res—in the middle of things—I felt right away that this novel could’ve used a longer introduction to the characters. They were fleeing for their lives and mourning loved ones left behind by only page 20, at which point I hadn’t yet come to care why. I thought at first that more of this background connection to the characters might exist if I’d read the previous book, Snow on Tulips, but looking up that description on Amazon, it appears to be about something and someplace completely different. Therefore, I would really have preferred more from the opening of this book: more time with Gisela and her cousin and Opa to show the depth of their connection; Mitch and Xavier breaking out of the prison camp; perhaps even a prologue showing whatever events happened further east that Gisela keeps mysteriously referring to.
The multiple POVs definitely detracted from the story for me, not because they weren’t all necessary, but because they cut and shifted and shuffled so much that the flow of the narrative was constantly disrupted. There were six POV changes in Chapter 19 alone. Overall, it created narrative distance that prevented me from truly connecting with any one character.
As secondary characters, Kurt and Audra did have a few moments when their points-of-view were vital to the story, but on the whole I didn’t believe in the conflict they were there to allegedly create. Their scheming to separated Mitch and Gisela felt contrived, as did their reasons for wanting to do so (he “hears the music again,” and she thinks an American will help her become a Hollywood movie star). I also was not convinced of Kurt’s need to use Audra to find out the truth about Mitch in the first place—not when the far more obvious solution would’ve been to ask the children, two important characters who could have innocently and immediately revealed the truth about when and how “Uncle Josep” came into their lives.
There were several technical inaccuracies in the story that stood out to me, particularly as an editor. Multiple sentences in a row that were identically structured. Choppy, stilted prose that only increased the narrative distance and ruined the author’s attempts at Deep Third POV. There were spelling errors and name inconsistencies, verb tense confusion, even a moment when a one-armed man was described as having “crossed his arms.”
The spiritual thread of the story also felt very out-of-context with the historical characters and settings. While still appropriate for the CBA market, the sudden insertion of a salvation message at the end—for not just one, but ALL of the characters—was a bit over the top for me. It immediately drew attention to itself as “Ah ha, now we have the Christian message of the book,” and thus drew me right out of the story at the time when, as writers, we are trained to want our readers to be the most engaged and invested in our characters.
One reason my author tagline is Deep-Rooted Fiction™ is that I write stories rooted in real history—stories about real people, real places, real events. As such, I had very high hopes for this World War II story based on the true-life experiences of two of the author’s relatives. And while this book certainly provided a window into an unusual time and place in world history, it failed to live up to all of my expectations.
Available May 13, 2014 from Thomas Nelson