Review: A World Elsewhere, An American Woman in Wartime Germany by Sigrid MacRae

Publisher: Viking/Penguin Group, September 4, 2014.
Genre: Biography, World War II, Germany, Nazi Germany.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 320.
Rating: 5 Stars.
Source: Free copy from Viking in exchange for a review. All reviews expressed are from my own opinion.

Book is available @ Amazon, Barnes and Noble.

"If I set out to understand my parents, I learned that we never completely understand what makes people who they are, and that who they are in fact changes." Page 276.
Sigrid MacRae had been given a beautiful "mother-of- pearl inlay" box which held letters from her father, Heinrich von Hoyningen-Huene. She did not open the box to read its contents until after her mother Aimee passed away. Reading the letters began a quest to understand her parents, as well as the Germany that had been her birth home, her mother's adopted home, and her father's defeat. MacRae shares her father and mother's heritage and lineage. A history course through her father's family is given on World War I and Russia during the Bolshevik Revolution. Post-war Germany is shown through the story of MacRae's family.

My Thoughts:
I read A World Elsewhere in one day. I had been drawn to the story because I'd wondered if American women had married German men and then stayed in Germany during the war? I'd wondered what their life had been like? How they'd survived? How their in-laws had treated them? And what post-war Germany had been like? A World Elsewhere answered all these questions and more.
I am pleased the story takes an honest approach, there are no added dreamy dramatics, after-all there should not be as the war is dramatic all on its own. MacRae does not make excuses for her parents. She allows the story to share their lives.
I feel MacRae's depiction of her parents is well-rounded. From their dreamy romantic youth and young love, to the reality of marriage and children, the worries of making a living to feed and provide for children, unmet dreams, betrayal, long-suffering, and the ability to endure.
MacRae's mother is not a larger than life heroine. Yet, she is a heroine. At first glance through the photographs in the book, MacRae's mother appears to be meek. How wrong for me to think this.
I love stories where I am changed. Changed in my laxity, or changed in my prejudice, or changed in my preconceived idea of what "I thought" life was really like. The older I am the more I realize what I don't know, and that until I have lived in another person's shoes I will not know.


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