WHEN WE MEET AGAIN by Kristin Harmel shows once again that just when I think I’ve read all I can possibly find about WW11, along comes a novel like this one to blow that theory straight from the water.
I love discovering new stuff. I’m still reeling from this information. I feel as if I should have known this. Did you know that German prisoners of war were kept in internment camps, some in Florida? Right here in Florida on the edge of the Everglades. Yep, it’s true. These German prisoners worked for farmers. In WHEN WE MEET AGAIN, the German prisoners are working cutting sugarcane on a farm near the center of the state. Most Americans believed that all Germans were Nazi’s, however, it could not be further from the truth. So many of these young men got swept into the fervor of the times and were forced into the military.
Harmel’s novel moves back and forth in time to bring us the extraordinary story of Emily’s grandmother and the grandfather she never knew. Was not even told who he was. She only knew he never married her grandmother. She had the impression he left out of the blue and did not acknowledge her father’s birth. But, wait, there has to be more than that. Oh yes, there sure is.
Emily is living in Orlando, Florida. She’s a writer just laid off her job as a relationship columnist. When she receives an unexpected painting from Germany, she’s more than perplexed. The painting is of a beautiful young woman standing on the edge of a sugarcane field highlighted by the eerie violet sky. She knows it must be her grandmother. But the note enclosed with the painting simply say’s, “Your grandfather never stopped loving her.” Not signed. But it spoke volumes. And Emily begins to dig deeper. Now she is on a mission.
Emily lives in Orlando, Florida. But she branches out far afield in her search. She’s determined to find out who her grandfather really is and if he is still alive. Her grandmother never spoke of him. So this was bound to be a monumental challenge. But since she’s newly unemployed she’s got plenty of time…
Moving to the bustling art scene of Atlanta to the city of Munich, Germany, then to the small town in the Everglades, Harmel brings vividly to life the sweltering sugarcane fields that are being worked by the German prisoners. She offers relief from the oppressive heat by showing the sweet, cool, violet sky of dawn. Then she throws in an epic love story. Sense of detail is amazing. Characters are unique and unforgettable.
This little known chunk of American history just blows my mind. I can’t stop thinking about it. In fact, I am going to delve deeper to look for even more about German prisoners here in Florida during the war. It’s such an unknown..
This is not just a love story, or a history lesson. It’s much more than all this. You see, Emily is used to her loved ones leaving. It’s all she knows. Her father left her and her mother when she was young. In turn, Emily left the young man she loved years ago when she was pregnant. And her grandmother was left all those years ago by the grandfather she never knew. A life of leaving.
Eventually Emily and her father are reunited, but it’s not without angst. They team up to try to finally solve the mystery of the disappeared person who was absent without notice. Not all candy and roses.
This amazing novel includes great art. It’s got secrets, and it will have you laughing and crying. It’s quite realistic. A father-daughter relationship. This is something I can and yet cannot relate to as my father and mother were divorced when I was very young, and my father did not enter the picture again. But I can tell you that it warms my heart to see my sons being such great fathers to their children.
Kristin Harmel is the author of THE SWEETNESS OF FORGETTING. I fell in love with that novel and have been looking forward to this one. She’s done an even more stunning job with WHEN WE MEET AGAIN. This fabulous novel will be haunting me for a long time. I loved it.
I can thank the very generous publishers at Gallery Books, a Simon & Schuster imprint, for my lovely review copy. This is one of those rare finds that you NEED to run out to get, as quickly as you can. It’s a real keeper!