We have a Christian bookstore in my town that features not only new books, but an alcove filled with used books. If you’re willing to sort, there is great treasure to be had. This past weekend, I unearthed a set of Tricia Goyer’s World War II series. From Dust and Ashes, the first of them, is written so vividly that I would never have guessed that it’s Goyer’s debut novel.
Set in the immediate aftermath of WWII, the author takes us to an Austrian town that housed a terrible secret. Home to a concentration camp, St. Georgen has now been liberated by the Americans. The shift from war to occupation does not always go smoothly and easily and against this dramatic and difficult backdrop, Tricia Goyer paints a beautiful story of redemption.
The book has a few subplots to it, but the main character who captured my heart was Helene, an SS wife. Given the likelihood of reprisals for her marriage into the hated SS, Helene attempts to keep her loyalties secret. She and her father take in a couple of concentration camp survivors, including Michaela, a young woman having difficulties adjusting to being free again.
In her own way, Helene was something of a prisoner during the war as well, married as she was to a drunken bully. She too, has much to learn of freedom, and throughout the book, we see both Michaela and Helene coming into their own. Many inspirational novels carry themes of redemption, but Goyer writes her characters so richly that they seem almost to leap off the page. Readers will weep for them, but also rejoice as they journey to forgiveness and faith.
And what of the men? Well, Peter Scott cuts a fine figure throughout the book. Shaken deeply by the horrors he encounters in liberating a concentration camp, he settles into his job helping to occupy the town. He is also quite struck by Helene, the local woman who takes two of the prisoners from the camp into her family’s own home. As he gets to know Helene better, we start to see some threads of romance weave through what is already a powerful story of hope.
Even though the book is nearly 500 pages long, I flew through it quickly because I.Just.Could.Not.Stop.Reading. Given the subject matter, readers will encounter some grim subject matter in this novel, but the hopeful tone of the story stands in great contrast to it. Highly recommend.
Title – From Dust and Ashes
Author- Tricia Goyer
Publisher – Moody Publishers, $14.99 (also available on Kindle for $7.99