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Title: From Sand and AshMy Review:
Author: Amy Harmon
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Release Date: December 1st 2016
Genres: Historical, Romance
Format: Kindle Book
Reading Challenges: Lenoreo's COYER Winter Switch 2017/18
Find it: Amazon ✩ B&N ✩ IndieBound ✩ Goodreads
Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.
As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.
Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.
But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.
3 stars — Well, I ended this one feeling quite conflicted. And as usual, I couldn’t resist going to Goodreads and reading through lower star reviews to see if I could help pinpoint my gripes. *slaps hand* What’s funny is that at least half of those people had the opposite gripe of me wrt to the “cleanliness” of this read. Yeah, it’s not 100% clean, but it actually was disappointing for me in the steam department (at a certain point it faded to black). I guess I prefer for books to either go whole hog in steam, or stay completely clean…halfway stuff is just frustrating. ANYWAY. That is seriously a very small point, I just had to get that out there.
So I will admit that I don’t read historical fiction. It’s just not my thing, I prefer contemporary voices and language. Though at least WWII isn’t so far back that it was a stretch for me, but I avoid WWII books for an entirely different reason…I’m sensitive as fuck. Like, my first date with my hubby we went to see Life is Beautiful, and the poor boy got to see what Lenore bawling so hard she can’t breathe looks like…my eyes were red for the entire supper afterwards. He’s obviously a keeper b/c he stuck it out. But I picked up this book b/c I enjoy Ms. Harmon’s books in general, even though her writing style tends to be outside my wheelhouse, and I was intrigued by the storyline of a forbidden love. Not to mention the setting in Italy instead of Germany. Now, as I don’t read historical fiction AT ALL, I cannot comment on how that aspect fares in comparison to other WWII books out there. *I* enjoyed it…or, well, enjoy is probably not the right word. But it kept me thoroughly captivated and horrified, and forced me to think about that time and the horrors that so many people had to endure. And I appreciated that as much as I hated that.
I think that’s part of where my conflict comes in. See, because I feel things just a bit too much, I actually found myself purposefully reading with some detachment so I wouldn’t be rendered inert from grief. But then I can’t tell if my lack of feels was my purposeful detachment, or if I just naturally didn’t get as attached to the characters. I honestly think it’s a combination of both. Eva and Angelo weren’t my favourite main characters…I didn’t like them as much as I thought I would. They had moments of awesome, but sometimes it felt like so much time was spent going over the events that were happening in Italy and they lacked a personal touch…or it would come too late. Or maybe it was just me. I don’t know. But I can say I didn’t cry much. I would cry more afterwards thinking of the very real people that this happened to, but I didn’t cry for what was specifically happening to Angelo and especially Eva. And since so much of my enjoyment of a book comes from characters, I felt like this was a weak spot in this story…it could have been done so much better.
And one of the reasons that I think I didn’t become as attached to the characters is that there wasn’t a clear indication of when the POV switched from Angelo to Eva. Often, especially in the first half of the book, it would switch from one paragraph to the next within the same section. Or it would take me 3 paragraphs into a section to figure out whose POV I was reading in. I’m NOT a fan of that, AT ALL. I was a bit disappointed with that to be frank.
So strangely enough, the parts of this book that stood out to me were actually just the little stories about the things that were happening in Italy, and the people who helped. Also, I specifically read this one for my a diverse reading challenge I’m participating in where the December theme is religious minorities, and I felt like I learned at least a bit about both Judaism and Catholicism. I know many Catholics will be disappointed in Angelo’s journey as a priest, though honestly if you didn’t see it coming even from the blurb, then I think you were just fooling yourself. I didn’t mind his choices…he was quite flawed, and torn, and while he made me angry with some of his choices, I understood them. I actually was less impressed with Eva’s journey…she really didn’t feel like she grew up, and I was always a bit annoyed with how little she tried to understand what made Angelo Angelo. I also loved the bonus diversity we got with Angelo only having one leg.
So yeah. A book with many high points, but with enough things that bugged me that I just can’t go above a 3 star. I wanted to. But then I wouldn’t be being honest with myself.