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5.0 out of 5 stars LOVED THIS BOOK, WHAT A PLEASURE TO READ,
This review is from: While We're Far Apart (Paperback)I absolutely loved this book from start to finish. I didn't know what to expect having never read this author before. I found the book beautifully written; with a touching heart-felt story line for all the characters that I, for one, can relate to even never having been in the particular situation(s) myself. I was captivated from the first page. The dialogue felt completely natural. I felt an affinity to both Penny and Esther and even Mr. Mendel. I very much enjoyed the history aspect, the love story, the family dynamics and felt all details were covered and explained effectively without fan-fare. Brooklyn 1943 - 1947 was captured like in a photograph. Only towards the end did I realize the underlying theme of this book are the age old questions that I am sure every single person has struggled with at some point, Christian or not, I know I have, and that is: `why does God let bad things happen?' and `does God hear my prayers?' The way these questions appeared and were dealt with were subtle and not at all `in your face'. While there are no definitive answers to such questions the story was told in such a quiet unassuming way that it gave me a sense of comfort and hope. At no point did I feel I was reading a religious book and I certainly did not feel I was being preached at. I was surprised to learn after some research that Lynn Austin is considered to be the writer of predominately `Christian' novels, this being one of them. Had I known this before I probably would not have bought the book. I am so glad I did because the book is 408 pages and I would have been happy if it had been 600 pages.
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5.0 out of 5 stars WHILE WE'RE FAR APART,
This review is from: While We're Far Apart (Paperback)The novel opens in Brooklyn, New York in the fall of 1943 during WWII. Eddie Schaffer age 33 and his two children, 12-year-old Esther and 9-year-old Peter live in a small apartment upstairs from their landlord, Jacob Mendel. A year prior, Eddie's wife Rachel was killed together with his landlord's wife, Miriam. Eddie is having difficulty coping with Rachel's death and decides to enlist in the army throwing the entire family for a loop. The children had already lost their mother and feared losing their father in battle.
Eddie's mother, Grandma Shaffer, lives next door to the Goodrich family who has a daughter Penny, aged 24. Penny's parents are older, quite strict and have sheltered Penny her entire life, always telling her she had no more sense than a green bean. As a result poor Penny suffers from terrible fear of being on her own and afraid of the world at large, although she holds a job as a ticket agent at the local bus station. Unbeknownst to Eddie, Penny has had a crush on him for years and years and always wished Eddie had married her instead of Rachel. She cried her eyes out when she learned Eddie was getting married.
Now enlisted in the Army and ready to head off for basic training, Eddie needs someone to care for young Esther and Peter. His own mother, Grandma Shaffer is adamant that there is no way possible she can look after two young children and is completely dead set against Eddie enlisting but Eddie had already enlisted sending Grandma into quite a dramatic tizzy. Penny steps forward and offers to care for the children herself with her underlying motive being that Eddie will fall in love with her and marry HER this time.
Soon Penny and children are ensconced in Eddie's apartment, living above Jacob Mendel who is suffering with his own problems. His son, Avraham traveled to Hungary five years ago to study the Torah, met and married Sarah and they had a daughter together whom they named Fredeleh, but now all three of them are missing!
Young Esther is struggling in Sunday school asking the teacher why there are wars, why her mother died in the car accident and asks: "Why doesn't God just kill all the evil people himself". Her teacher tells the class they should pray for their loved ones who are off fighting in the war but Esther can't accept that as an answer and inquires: "Even if we pray and pray, God doesn't stop people from dying, so what good does it do"? How many of us have asked that very same question during our own journey of faith?
In the meantime, poor little Peter seems to have lost his ability to talk once his father went off to war and is frightened. He writes a note on his chalkboard for his sister saying: "I don't know what's wrong. I try to talk and nothing comes out. Help me!" Esther doesn't know what to do and won't ask Penny for any help as she despises Penny and thinks that she is trying to replace her mother. But Penny, at this point, couldn't be much help as she herself has no self-confidence, always telling herself she can't do things and always makes a mess of everything. These put-downs are old tapes playing in her head that her parents have pounded into her since she was a young child. They continue to treat Penny as a child and make her feel as though everything that happens is her fault. Yet somehow she found the inner strength and courage to move out of her parents home and care for Eddie's children.
Downstairs, Jacob Mendel has lost his Jewish faith completely. Esther and Peter visit Mr. Mendel after school each day to help him around the house. Esther begins to seek answers about God, prayer and faith from Mr. Mendel but he doesn't know how to help Esther or what to say to her. He too has lost faith in his religion and his God. He finally explains the story of Joseph and the coat of many colours and tells the children that: "Faith is believing even when you cannot see it". But, does Jacob himself still really believe that?
Due to Esther's persistence and questions, and Peter's sad eyes, Jacob was beginning to come out from under the veil of darkness and unbelief he had been under for the past year and a half. Jacob decides that he and the children will invite Penny in celebrating "Purim", which is the feast of "Queen Esther" from the Bible. Keeping with tradition, Jacob tells the children that instead of him telling the story, they will each read the story together with everyone taking a part. Of course, Esther will play the part of Queen Esther and Peter will be Hashem (The Man or God). They will also bake the traditional "Hamantaschen" (cookies). During Jacob's planning of the party he realizes he is truly happy.
As the relationship between Mr. Mendel, the children and Penny begins to grow, they come to learn together about faith, loss, love, and forgiveness. There are so many other exciting parts in this story that I don't want to give anything else away. But there are a few morals in this story that I believe are important for all of us to remember.
We need to remember that God is always there, even when we can't see Him or hear Him. Even when we think our prayers are not being heard, they are, just not always in the way we'd like them to be. It is and has always been God's will that shall be done, not ours! Even during silence and painful hardships, God is still there. Sometimes we must travel through hardships in our lives in order for us to learn something or to understand something. Without hardships we wouldn't be able to grow in our faith. We need to trust God and live our lives as humble servants, even when we cannot see, even when we feel tired of looking and want to give up. God is ALWAYS there, even when He is silent.
This is also an important story that talks about the atrocities that were placed upon the people of Jewish faith during the war, in my opinion, one of the saddest and most hurtful of all times in history.
Lynn Austin has once again written a riveting story. A story that you'll remember long after the last page has been turned. It's the type of book you'll want to read again and again. This is one story you can't miss!!
4.0 out of 5 stars good WWII story,
This review is from: While We're Far Apart (Paperback)Lynn Austin writes with wonderful characters, that pull you into her story. I also like the fact thtat I learn about people and history, with her books. I enjoyed hearing this story from the viewpoint of a Jewish man in New York, as the atrocities of Hitler unfold. As with other Austin books, my favorite part of the plots, is the value we see in people helping people in need. The joy and benefits go both ways. When life is hard, we shown again that we hang on to God and to other quality people, and we get through. I found that the last few chapters wrapped everything up too smoothly - like she ran out of time.
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended,
This review is from: While We're Far Apart (Paperback)Lynn Austin has done an amazing job with this book. While We're Far Apart is filled with drama, mystery, secrets, and budding romance that will keep you turning the pages. I couldn't put the book down! I love the style and tone of this book. The characters are well constructed and the plot believable. I held my breath through parts, and I worried about the characters and what would become of them.
While We're Far Apart takes place on the home front during World War II. One of the things I really like about this book is the cast of characters. The three main characters are all unique and come from completely different places in life. I enjoyed reading each of their thoughts and walking with them as they go through their personal struggles. Most of all, I liked how Austin wove in the spiritual lesson that God works even when it seems He is silent.
I highly recommend this book for lovers of historical fiction and fans of Lynn Austin.
Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
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While We're Far Apart by Lynn Austin (Paperback - Oct 1 2010)
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