For ten year-old Jeremiah Prins, the life of privilege as the son of a school headmaster in the Dutch East Indies comes crashing to a halt in 1942 after the Japanese Imperialist invasion of the Southeast Pacific. Jeremiah takes on the responsibility of caring for his younger siblings when his father and older stepbrothers are separated from the rest of the family, and he is surprised by what life in the camp reveals about a woman he barely knows—his frail, troubled mother.
Amidst starvation, brutality, sacrifice and generosity, Jeremiah draws on all of his courage and cunning to fill in the gap for his mother. Life in the camps is made more tolerable as Jeremiah’s boyhood infatuation with his close friend Laura deepens into a friendship from which they both draw strength.
When the darkest sides of humanity threaten to overwhelm Jeremiah and Laura, they reach for God’s light and grace, shining through his people. Time and war will test their fortitude and the only thing that will bring them safely to the other side is the most enduring bond of all.
A lot of WWII fiction focuses on the massacre of the Jews at the hands of the Nazis. Brouwer shares a story of the plight of the Dutch at the hands of the Japanese in a Japanese concentration camp in the Dutch East Indies.
This is one of those rare books that draws you in from the very first page and doesn’t let you go until the very end. Readers get a taste of Jeremiah’s strength of character and poetic soul from the beginning of the novel and throughout his struggles at the camp, but Brouwer just blew my expectations out the water by the end. What an amazing story.
Some authors just know how to tell a story and keep the surprises secret until they spring them on us. It doesn’t happen a lot, but Brouwer is obviously a very special and gifted writer. I just can’t say enough how great this book is.
I love books that keep me thinking about it even after I close it for the final time. As great as the plot is, the characters have really held on to me. I find myself thinking about the irony of how some characters turned out, and wondering what would compel other characters to the actions they took. In my opinion, it gives readers a realistic look at how the atrocities of war continue to color people’s lives even after the war is over.
There are parts of this book that are very difficult to read. Brouwer doesn’t sugarcoat some of the realities of war, actions some people take to survive war, or what some survivors do after war to try to forget. However, I always appreciate honesty in writing and would rather have the choice to skim over sections that are too horrible to imagine than have a book that wasn’t satisfying because the author was afraid to “go there”.
If you enjoy historical fiction, especially from the WWII era, this book is a must read. It takes a story that isn’t as commonly written about and educates readers while it entertains. This is truly an excellent book!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.