On her wedding day, Sera's groom William Hanover is arrested for fraud. Sera believes his innocence, but all evidence, including a significant paper trail, points toward him. Not knowing what the future holds, Sera continues her plans for opening an art gallery in San Francisco, but as time passes, she feels the need to confront William's estranged father, and the trip to London also gives her an opportunity to visit Sophie, a friend and Holocaust survivor. Sophie tells her the tale of a young Czechoslovakian woman who worked for a newspaper in London and disappeared in Prague during the war. Though the story of Kaja Makovsky has little in common with Sera's predicament, the hope they must both hold onto transcends time.
If a story has ever started out with a piercing hook that won't let you stop reading, it's this one. The opening: the wedding day, the beginning of happily ever after, cut short by the arrest of the groom. The opening of the dual WWII storyline: a mad, secretive rush to the train station, their last chance to escape as Nazis roll into the city, bringing the war to Prague. From there on, it's impossible to put down the book - both storylines are gripping, taut with emotion and suspense.
Like in The Butterfly and the Violin, the author wildly succeeds at the time split/dual storylines. She continues the modern-day story of Sera and William from the first book, while adding a fresh, new tale of WWII to capture our interest. Though the story of Kaja is fictional, aspects of Terezin, including the art made by thousands of children who passed through on their way to Auschwitz, are true. The London bombings reminded me of the Academy Award-winning film Mrs. Miniver, and were a reminder of what England went through in the course of the war.
From Sera's story, I especially liked the concept that when you choose to love someone, you love them, past mistakes and all. And when you trust them, whether it's God, your spouse, or your best friend, it's a choice. Trust does not actually always have to be earned; you can choose to trust, or you can choose not to. It is still hard when circumstances are difficult; but that is when faith is built.
Cambron's emotion-packed second novel is a beautiful cross between modern women's fiction and a historical suspense/romance, with plenty to take home from both storylines.
Thank you Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing an e-copy to review; I was not required to make the review positive, and all opinions are my own.
1. The Butterfly and the Violin
2. A Sparrow in Terezin