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Where Treasure Hides Paperback – August 1, 2015
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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One of the overarching themes in this book is the place of heartache in our lives. Do we allow it to determine how we treat others? What about the decisions we make—are they merely to protect us from further pain or do we reach for something more? The characters wrestle with these things from both sides of the issue, both as the one trying to shield him or herself and as the person who knows this isn’t really enough to call living.
And that leads into the tension between faith in God and superstition. While most of us say we trust God, we also aren’t willing to take chances on our happiness if we can help it. That is the situation Allison finds herself in, though hers is more stark than most of us face. Reading as it plays out is fascinating and I loved how the author doesn’t condemn the conflicting emotions she feels even as she struggles to trust the future to God.
The characters that populate this novel have amazing depth, including the secondary and minor characters. It would be far too easy to turn the Nazis and even the everyday German people into caricatures of the evil that was Hitler's regime, lumping all of them into one group and thereby making a judgement about everyone at once. But in this book, we see complex characters that, even though they are still the enemy, are human beings caught in an irresistible machinery that holds them as trapped as those whom they hold prisoner. Neither are all of the “good guys” necessarily doing the right things for altruistic motives—some strike me as more malevolent than those within the Nazi ranks.
This story made me cry in several places: it's hard to imagine living in these situations and facing the difficult choices that have to be made, sometimes in a mere moment. To feel so conflicted, to feel like a traitor even as those you love plead with you to save yourself, or to determine the future for another person because of a decision they have no input in is incomprehensible in our relatively safe world. The dilemmas presented in this novel almost have no right answer, but we get to follow the characters down the path they have chosen and see the realistic consequences play out.
The historical content is outstanding; the intense research and extensive knowledge of the author is evident, but this is a novel about a brutal time. Horrific episodes in history are brought to light in scenes that, while not necessarily graphic, are still disturbing. I would suggest this book only for mature readers, at least older teens, on up. It is a completely worthwhile read that I would highly recommend for those with an interest in WWII and those who enjoy historical romance with a dramatic storyline.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The Book Club Network (bookfun.org) to facilitate this review. All of the opinions expressed are my honest thoughts.
Johnnie’s debut is a solid entry into World War II based fiction. It is more of a romance set during history, than a historical story with romance. This isn’t a bad thing, but I do think something that potential readers might want to know going into the story. It is obvious from the outset that this is going to be a romantic story, and while I do like romance, I was a bit surprised at how quickly the romantic relationship begins – literally within the first chapter. I prefer more build-up in the romantic relationship than was provided here, but in the spirit of the story, I suspended my belief until the plot moved more toward what I consider the meat of the story.
Once the story passed the introductory stage, I was more drawn in by the details of art. Allison is an artist in her own right and very passionate about the artistic legacy of the Van Schuyler family. The theme of the “Mona Lisa question” that plagues her is well done – that hypothetical question being, as an art devotee, if she could only pick one, would she save the Mona Lisa or a child? Of course, she said the child, but her passionate reactions to protecting art lead her to be unsure of her ready answer to this philosophical debate.
Johnnie shows readers several different sides of the war – how it was toward the beginning, the Nazi stealing of artwork and life as an escaped prisoner of war. These glimpses of the war are fascinating, although some readers may find the big jumps in time a bit jarring, as I sometimes did. Another thing that might give readers pause is Allison’s belief in a family “curse” or fate. It seemed strange to me that a character who is a Christian would put such strong credence into a suppose curse. I know the point is for her to overcome her fear of it, but that didn’t always ring true to me. This is something that might not work for one reader, but then be totally fine for another.
Ian Devlin, the British Army lieutenant, faces a different kind of hardship throughout the war; he is an admirable male lead, and the scenes that feature him were the most suspenseful and riveting, yet also the most poignant, as he is forced to take life in order to save another and later come to terms with it. Johnnie doesn’t sugarcoat Ian’s experiences, and it adds a gritty, authentic feeling to the narrative.
Since the romantic aspect wasn’t what ended up drawing me into the story, as a couple, Allison and Ian are pleasant enough to me, but not fully engaging. I was more engrossed in their separate stories that I was when they were together. I admit to being a little lost toward the end of the story; Allison makes a decision that didn’t strike me as realistic, and once that happened, I was a bit less engaged in the story. Her behavior seems to contradict her spirit and behavior throughout the rest of the novel; I didn’t feel her despair but rather an acceptance of the situation. Ultimately, it does lead her to fully realize that art does not trump life, so for that reason, I found the climax of the story compelling.
Despite my few qualms with this story, overall, I did enjoy it. As a debut, Where Treasure Hides shows a great deal of promise for Johnnie’s future books. The ending is quite intriguing and leaves plenty of room for a sequel. I see that Johnnie has a contemporary romance releasing next, but since there are a few lose ends in this story that made my heart ache for Allison, I sincerely hope that there might be a follow-up in the future.