When We Were Brave by Karla M. Jay weaves three narratives together, revealing how individual lives were affected by the Nazis during WWII. An SS officer risks his life as well as his families to expose Hitler’s atrocities. A German family confronts hostility from their American neighbors. An eight-year-old Jewish boy imprisoned within the war camps.
Personally, I am not a fan of perspective jumping. This style of writing, for me, at least, prevents the immersive reading experience that provides a deeper connection with the main character or characters. However, for educational purposes, the content is exceptional and should be mandatory reading for every high school across the world. Jay provides discussion questions along with authentic connections with her characters. It is easy to read ‘facts’ from history books but is incomparable to the tragedies and emotions experienced through the eyes of those affected. The naivety of the eight-year-old Jewish boy is the most palpable. His innocence clings to a family reunion despite the horrors he faces each day. Jay portrays, with remarkable precision, the psychological and physical turmoil experienced by the characters, giving the reader a glimpse into a reality endured over seventy years ago.
Without revealing any plot details, I did have an issue with one aspect of the story. The SS officer risks everything to expose the truth and is frustrated when his actions, or rather inactions, are questioned by the American government resulting in thousands of more deaths each passing day his claims are investigated. But when he is offered the opportunity to bring forth information upon his surrender, he keeps silent for months. It was hard to reconcile this behavior with his character’s purpose, and the impact of his story was weakened. Despite this minor flaw, I would definitely recommend this book for all historical fiction readers.
*I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.*
Reedsy – The Discovery Team