In 1944, blond and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric's secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz.
Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric's compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy.
Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp's prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?
For Such a Time by Kate Breslin is a powerful re-telling of the story of Esther set during World War II. I loved how Kate Breslin took the story of Esther and crafted a moving story of redemption, salvation, and love even during the terrible times of the concentration camps and the atrocities committed against the Jews. Each chapter starts with a verse or two from Esther that corresponds in some way to the events that occur in that chapter. The story is not merely the story of Esther moved to a new time period; this is a novel that perfectly fits the WWII time period and which incorporates some of the main aspects of the story into its plot. For Such a Time includes poignant descriptions of the horrors of the German concentration camps, how the Nazis tricked Jews into the camps, how they forced the Jewish elders to choose which of their people they would send to the gas chambers of Auschwitz, and other heart-wrenching actions that occurred. While there is terrible heartache and sadness in this novel, there is still a bright hope of salvation that resides within the people as they believe Hadassah (Stella) will save them. What they, Stella, and even Aric discover is that salvation comes with trusting and believing in God and not a person can do alone. I liked how Stella began to read the Bible, even the New Testament, and then how she discovered the truth of love, forgiveness, and faith in God.
The characters of For Such a Time were heartwarming and moving. I loved the interactions between Aric and Stella as they learned more about each other and about themselves. Both had their faults, but both were able to move past those as they began to love and to trust one another and God again. Aric was probably my favorite character because even with the brokenness he had experienced and the atmosphere of animosity towards Jews in which he lived, he still was able to show compassion and love towards Stella and others. I also loved Morty, Stella's aunt, his friend, and the small boy Joseph who had suffered so much. They all added so much depth to the story and made it even more realistic. Even the evil Hermann and the other Nazis contributed to the plot twists and complexity of the story. However, my favorite part was probably the ending when the unexpected happened, and I could finally relax from the gripping storyline. Overall, I found this novel to be a compelling and powerful story, and I would highly recommend For Such a Time to any reader who enjoys historical fiction that combines facts with romance, Biblical truths, and mystery.
I received this novel for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.