The Living and the Lost, Ellen Feldman

In post-war Germany, The Living and the Lost gives us Millie, returning to Germany to help sort survivors. However, sort is a much nicer term for it. Millie is a tough character to like. She’s carrying a lot of guilt for a decision she made in the past, which we don’t learn about until we’re ending the book. I don’t feel that there was any reason to put off learning about what this decision was. If anything, it exacerbated this disconnect I felt from her, but that feels planned by the author.

Millie is self-pitying; she’s tightly wound, to the point it puts everyone around her on edge. She’s willfully blind to most things around her because she has an agenda, and no one will change her perspective. For those reasons, it’s hard to like her as a character. But you don’t have to love a character to like the story. Mainly because this is an aspect of the war that isn’t often written about in historical fiction. This book will wring out a lot of emotions in the readers. Thank you, St. Martin’s, for sending this along.

The Living and the Lost is available for preorder on Amazon for $11.99, it releases September 7th.

Read this review on Goodreads and Bookbub.

About the Book:

Millie (Meike) Mosbach and her brother David, manage to escape to the States just before Kristallnacht, leaving their parents and little sister in Berlin. Millie attends Bryn Mawr on a special scholarship for non-Aryan German girls and graduates to a magazine job in Philadelphia. David enlists in the army and is eventually posted to the top-secret Camp Ritchie in Maryland, which trains German-speaking men for intelligence work.

Now they are both back in their former hometown, haunted by ghosts and hoping against hope to find their family. Millie, works in the office responsible for rooting out the most dedicated Nazis from publishing; she is consumed with rage at her former country and its citizens, though she is finding it more difficult to hate in proximity. David works trying to help displaced persons build new lives, while hiding his more radical nighttime activities from his sister. Like most of their German-born American colleagues, they suffer from conflicts of rage and guilt at their own good fortune, except for Millie’s boss, Major Harry Sutton, who seems much too eager to be fair to the Germans.

Living and working in bombed-out Berlin, a latter day Wild West where drunken soldiers brawl; the desperate prey on the unsuspecting; spies ply their trade; werewolves, as unrepentant Nazis were called, scheme to rise again; black markets thrive, and forbidden fraternization is rampant, Millie must come to terms with a decision she made as a girl in a moment of crisis, and with the enigmatic sometimes infuriating Major Sutton who is mysteriously understanding of her demons.

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