“I came to understand that people must often make desperate decisions in desperate times; that we cannot scorn someone without understanding what brought that person to that place; that good people sometimes make bad decisions; that words spoken over children have lasting effects on their destiny; and most of all, that war, love, greed, desperation, and determination each have effects that last for generations.”—Sousanna Stratmann, Sousanna: The Lost Daughter.
Five-year-old Sousanna is often cold and always hungry, but she’s happy living in post-WWII Greece with her loving family. Then one day a stranger approaches Sousanna’s father with a startling proposition, made bearable only by the assurance that the situation is temporary. She is removed from her home and adopted by an American couple. How will she endure being alone in this strange place, where her culture, her language, and even her name are taken from her? How will her parents ever find her?
We read Sousanna in my book club, and the author joined us via Zoom. I was especially interested in learning why she wrote her story as a novel, but over ninety percent of it is about her life. Like many memoirists, she was concerned that her memories might be flawed. Since most of the books I collaborate on are narrative nonfiction or memoir, I was eager to read it. Sousanna is a lovely Christian woman whose childhood was heart-wrenching in so many ways, yet she is happy and content despite her tragic beginning. She quotes Apostle Paul: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
The book is fast-paced and gripping, and while I was reading it, I thought about my five grandchildren who range in age between 1 and 7 and I wept for the “what ifs.” The terror little Sousanna experienced is beyond my imagination.
The average rating my fellow bookies gave Sousanna was 4. I was the odd woman out. I’m a professional writer and editor, and although the story was excellent, the writing was not. It was simplistic and choppy, and there were typos and errors a good editor should have caught. The multiple narratives would have been more effective had the author written them in first-person. 4 stars for content, and 2.5 stars for execution for an overall rating of 3 stars.