“Hell is simply the place where hope is lost.” ~ Kelly Rimmer, The German Wife
This gripping novel was inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII.
Berlin, 1930—Although Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her husband Jürgen do not share the social views growing popular in Hitler’s Germany, his position with its burgeoning rocket program changes their diminishing fortunes for the better.
Twenty years later, as part of Operation Paperclip, Jürgen is one of the many German scientists offered pardons for their part in the war and taken to America to work for its fledgling space program. Sofie looks forward to making a fresh start in Alabama. But her neighbors aren’t as welcoming as she’d hoped. She and her family face social isolation, hostility, and violence, climaxing in a shocking event.
This dual timeline/narrative really works in this novel. It’s rare to find a book in which I am invested in all the characters, a mark of great writing. Rimmer had my emotions tied in knots as I contemplated the turmoil Sofie felt as she watched her beloved Berlin transform into something unrecognizable and was forced to consider what she and her husband must sacrifice morally for their young family’s security. Opposing the Nazi regime had severe consequences. I found it especially disturbing that the Nazis brainwashed impressionable children against the Jews. When the family moved to Alabama, Sofie was thrust into a foreign environment in which she is a complete outsider, loathed by most of those around her.
Rimmer’s research was impressive. Operation Paperclip was an immense undertaking that brought 1,600 German scientists and engineers—specialists in rocketry, chemistry, physics, architecture, and medicine—to the United States to design and built rockets. Jürgen’s career loosely follows that of the historical figure Wernher von Braun. Another storyline was inspired by the life of Gerda Weissmann Klein, a concentration camp survivor liberated after a death march wearing the ski boots her father insisted would help her survive.
The German Wife is my favorite Kelly Rimmer book. 4.5 stars rounded up to five.
** Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free review copy of this book. The opinions are my own.