With inviting historic and cultural detail, and a keen sense of feeling caught between nations, Marzell dramatizes the daily lives and drifts of mind of his cast, the fiction attentive at all times to the question of what life for people like Matthias or Josef, his friend, would have felt like. “America is complicated,” Josef says early on, before Hitler’s invasion of Poland changes everything. They yearn for the Heimat, for family and friends, “the food, the smells” and lifting the beer stein.
The 20th century, of course, will disrupt these lives further, with the lives of Matthias, Josef, their friend Feliks, and endless millions of others scattered by the winds of war. Marzell’s depiction ranges from Pearl Harbor to Nuremberg, plus much discussion of everything before and after (“The civilized world would not tolerate that,” one character insists, during a discussion of Hitler’s dark plans.) Much of the story and world are revealed through dialogue as Marzell’s people, like any of us, try to make sense of a world that won’t slow down.
Takeaway: A humane, vividly realized epic of German immigrants to the U.S. between the world wars
Great for fans of: Lourise Erdrich’s The Master Butchers Singing Club, Mary Relindes Ellis’s The Bohemian Flats.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-