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Motherland Hardcover


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint (January 14, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1619022370
  • ISBN-13: 978-1619022379
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,951 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A deserter in Nazi Germany, on his way back to his family, hid letters from his new wife in an attic wall, where they were discovered decades later. Those letters led his granddaughter, poet and fiction writer Hummel, to explore the experience of Germans who struggled to keep their lives intact during WWII. Motherland follows Liesl, who recently married Frank, a widower, and is now caring for his three sons while he works as a surgeon stationed elsewhere. With separate struggles, including a debilitating illness striking one of the boys, Liesl and Frank’s stories unfold alongside each other but are only loosely connected, highlighting the depth of their separation. The Third Reich exerts a menacing, persistent force from the background. In prose that is both spare and heavily laden with the exhausted emotion of hard living, Hummel maintains a claustrophobic undercurrent of fear even when describing mundane daily tasks. Dark and uncompromising, Motherland illuminates a little-examined aspect of the war. --Bridget Thoreson

Review

Praise for Motherland

“This is a tender, profound novel of a young woman who steps into a shattered German family and makes it her own. The radiance of her sacrifice, and of Hummel's storytelling, illuminates this dark chapter of human history with heart and revelation.” —Adam Johnson, The Orphan Master’s Son, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“In stunning, pitch-perfect prose, Maria Hummel gives us a deeply moving portrait of lives on the wrong side of history. This isn't just another World War II novel; it's a spectacular story about what it means to love and hope in the most difficult times.” —Jesmyn Ward, Salvage the Bones, Winner of the National Book Award

“Through the intimate story of one German family at the end of the Second World War, Motherland weaves a universal tale of moral obligation, wartime complicity, and the lengths we will go to protect those we love. From the bare bones of her own family's history, Maria Hummel has built a visceral, magnificent creature.” —Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

“Hummel’s haunting novel is set in the ravaged landscape of German just before the country’s collapse at the end of World War II…Searing and honest, her book illuminates the reality of war away from the front lines —betrayal and compromise, neighbor turning on neighbor, the unexpected heroism of ordinary people — with a compassion and depth of understanding that will touch your heart.” —People Magazine, Four Stars

“Maria Hummel draws upon her family history to create a spellbinding novel that examines the many facets of motherhood, during a time of war and beyond. Motherland is a vivid, heart-stopping depiction of a German family's struggle to stay together during the devastating Allied bombing of their small town. You won’t soon forget these characters or the stories they have to tell." —Susan Sherman, The Little Russian

“A courageous and unsettling novel arising from the questions that Maria Hummel had about her grandparents’ lives during the Third Reich. How much did they know? How did they survive?” —Ursula Hegi, Stones from the River

“Fear, grief, and the will to survive fuse in this beautiful novel about the inner life of a German family in the final months of World War II… The humiliations and guilt that each family member endures for the others are described with grace and humanity. While stunningly intimate, Motherland is expansive in feeling and scope. Extending beyond a simple historical drama, this book is a reminder of the reach of love, how it can blind, and how it can heal.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“In prose that is both spare and heavily laden with the exhausted emotion of hard living, Hummel maintains a claustrophobic undercurrent of fear even when describing mundane daily tasks. Dark and uncompromising, Motherland illuminates a little-examined aspect of the war.” —Booklist

“These characters appear to have, at best, blinders on and, at worse, to be in denial about the fate of their missing Jewish neighbors and what is actually going on at camps like Buchenwald. However, these all-too-human failings are so honestly rendered that a stark question emerges: Who among us, faced with similar circumstances, would have acted differently? Heart-rending and chilling.” —Kirkus, Starred Review

“Hummel gathered her raw material from the life of her grandfather, reflected in letters written during the war and discovered in an attic wall. Just as Londoners suffered under the Blitz, German citizens spent the last year of the war living as no human being should, amid the horrors of daily air raids and the loss of those they loved. Hummel somehow manages, without sensationalism, to drive home the humanity and suffering of the people who are frequently considered only as the enemy. Without canceling out our sympathy for those targeted by the Nazis, this humane and compelling story may extend it to those who (often unwittingly) assisted in some of humanity's worst crimes—and who themselves got flicked by the tail of the beast.” —BookPage

“Motherland is a moving tale of hope, compassion, and the lengths we go to for the ones we love. Petition your book club to add it to the roster.” —PureWow.com

"Hummel's focus on the concrete, physical experiences of one family is a fine, brave antidote to abstraction, and does what good historical fiction does best: explores what has passed in those undocumented rests between the things we know to be true." —San Francisco Chronicle,

“Inspired by letters between her paternal grandparents towards the end of the Second World War, Motherland explores love through the unfamiliar lens of Nazi sympathizers. Romantic endeavors during wartime are not unusual by any means, but rarely are we given the chance to make sense of, and furthermore, sympathize with, a love between those finding themselves on the wrong side of history... Like Sebastian Faulk’s Birdsong, Motherland is more than a story of separated lovers — it charts, with great poise and more than a little poetry, the challenges of a time when allegiances, to one side or the other, were both necessary and potentially disastrous.” ——Bustle,

“…deeply researched, painstakingly written, and, above all, heartfelt.” ——New York Times Book Review,



Praise for Wilderness Run

“A gripping debut, shot through with poetry and violence, Wilderness Run traces the demons that divide us, whether as a nation or in our hearts. At turns radiant and shocking, understated and unbearable, Wilderness Run proceeds with the force of a coming locomotive.” —Nick Flynn author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

“A gifted poet has immersed herself in the history of her home territory to write a mesmerizing first novel.” —David Huddle, author of The Story of a Million Years

“…Visceral..fascinating..an utterly devourable historical novel.” —The Los Angeles Times

“…gracefully and evocatively written…Hummel creates solid characters while capturing the day-to-day reality of military life during the Civil War, and her well-paced, elegant prose turns especially poignant at the end… Hummel is a solid writer who inserts enough intriguing turns in her narrative to keep things interesting.” —Publishers Weekly

“This carefully wrought historical novel is rich in period detail that Civil War scholars will certainly appreciate, while its appropriately tragic romance will appeal to those looking for an absorbing read.” —Booklist

“Hummel's language is lyrical and vivid, and her portrayal of the everyday life of the Lindsey family and of Laurence's regiment is detailed and realistic.” —Library Journal

More About the Author

Maria Hummel is a poet, novelist, and essayist. She teaches at Stanford University and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons.

Customer Reviews

I hope to read more of her books.
Calli
A well-written book, giving an interesting perspective of the hardships and tradgidies of World War II on a German family.
Adele L Kaplan
This is the kind of book that is hard to put down.
dancingaddict

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
The story is that of the tragedy and triumph of a young German family trying to survive the trials and tribulations of a devastated Germany at the end of World War ll.
The novel is based on the author's paternal grandparents, suspected of being a Mitläufer family: Germans who went along with Nazism, while keeping a blind eye to their atrocities, they garnered its benefits and rewards; but later suffered the consequences.

Dr. Frank Kappus, a reconstructive surgeon, loses his beloved wife while giving birth to their third son. A couple of months later he marries young Liesl. Shortly after, Frank is drafted into military medical service and is transferred to the front, about 250 kilometers away, leaving young Liesl to care for his children.
Fear from the constant Allied bombings and the approaching battle front, scarcity of resources and diminishing food supplies, the commonality of deaths, and the inexorable invasion of starving destitute refugees in their town caused tremendous insurmountable daily challenges for survival, during the last year of the war.
Young Liesl, alone, bravely and selflessly struggled to feed, protect and comfort the children. It is a time when ethnic hatred, political compatibility or hostility, and personal betrayal are insignificant in comparison to keeping her wards fed, warm and safe. = No spoilers here=.

Hummel distilled the angst, fear, daily suffering and generous humanity from her grandfather's letters, written during the WW ll and discovered (50 years later) in an attic wall. The horrendous cruelty of the Nazis in their treatment of the disabled, the mentally deficient, the insane, homosexuals, gypsies and, especially, the Jews was passively tolerated and ignored.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jos M. Hohmann on January 15, 2014
Format: Hardcover
This story, based loosely on the author's family, takes place on the German "Home Front" towards the end of WWII. I love historical fiction, so this was the main reason I got this book. It was great in that respect, and it was a very "human" story as well.
So why not 5 stars? Mainly because I felt that the first half of the book was plodding along to the point where if I had left the book on a plane, I would have said, "Oh well". If only the pace of the first half equaled that of the second. A wonderful bonus awaited at the end of the book titled "Acknowledgements". You MAY want to read this before you start the story. Great stuff!
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steven C. Hull on January 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Maria Hummel published her last novel (her first) twelve years ago. Hummel is an accomplished poet who brought her rhythm, lyricism and voice to Motherland and I sincerely hope she doesn’t wait another twelve years and let academia swallow her time.

(Note: I read the comments of Chris Roberts and Stephen Weiss prior to posting this. Any novelist writing of the time and place of the Holocaust is going to be criticized if they do not confront the extermination of the Jews and the complicity of the German people headon. I stood in the low ceiling concrete gas chamber, prayed before the cremation ovens, and walked through the barracks of dead Jews at Mauthausen, sitting on a hilltop overlooking the Danube in Austria. We drove up the narrow winding road to the concrete-walled fortress, through a cornfield, past a farmhouse with an elderly gentleman sitting on the porch, knowing well that the family that lived there forty-five years before as well as the entire town of Mauthausen knew full well what was there. We had dinner with a young German executive friend of a friend who, after too many glasses of wine, downplayed the Holocaust by claiming the Allies killed more in their bombing. I fully agree that the Germans knew to a great extent and tacitly approved of the exterminations. That does not mean that a person cannot write a literary novel exploring the daily lives from the viewpoint of the German people. As with any literary novel, “Motherland” is subtle, laced with metaphors and the sub-text of the novel brings out the cultural cruelty and dystopia of the then German people. It does not explore the full broad hatred of various minority groups and the complicity of the people in rounding them up. But that is not the scope of this novel.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By DS on January 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Motherland is already one of my favorite books of the year. It is page-turning, heartbreaking, effervescent. I know I will be thinking about this book for a long, long time. And then I will read it again.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Amy Nislow on January 21, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book has characters who were good but happened to live among evil. It affected them in many ways that even they may not have realized. It is beautifully written with a compelling storyline. I highly recommend this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia M Newcombe on February 2, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have a always been fascinated by this period of history. I am just beginning to learn what it was like for families living in Germany at the end of the war. This is a sad story but very enlightening. I highly recommend it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on January 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved this book, although sad it was good history to read not all Germans were evil. Some were just trying to survive
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. E. Mcneil on February 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This beautiful novel about the plight of small town citizens in the Reich (1944 -1945) is gripping. It's a one-day read!
I can't help but compare it to City of Women (civilian life in Berlin during WWII) and the classic by Jerzy Kozinski, The Painted Bird. This beautiful book saddens, yet does not disappoint the reader.
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