Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

Read first chapter excerpt here

Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany—in the summer of 1939—will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.

Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.

Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young—a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally—who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives—and asking others to do the same—for those they barely know but come to love.

“Germany is at stake—heart and soul…When the church stops standing for Jews—for anyone—then we stop being the church. Grace is costly—it took the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, to achieve that grace. It requires just as much from each of us.
But we’ve come to practice cheap grace—grace that appears as a godly form but costs us nothing—and that is an abomination, a stench in the nostrils of God.”

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke was a stirring novel that demonstrated the power of love and it means to lay down your life for your friends and family. True discipleship. The message Bonhoeffer preached to his German congregation and wrote in his book The Cost of Discipleship was one of the main themes of this novel and is a message that is still relevant today. As Christians, people who love and follow Jesus, are we justified in remaining mute and inactive when people are scorned or even killed because of their race or physical capabilities, or are we called to stand up, to choose to save the unlovable even when it is dangerous? Saving Amelie captures the attitude of inaction and purposeful ignorance of both the German people and America at the beginning of World War II when the Nazis started using eugenics to first sterilize the "impure" and then to round up the weak, the deaf, the old, the 'imperfect' and to kill them. Both people groups simply stood by and did not respond until it was too late. As Edmund Burke says, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." However, this novel also demonstrates that not everyone refuses to act and that people can be saved even if just a few respond and help. In addition, there is a portion of this novel that reveals the atrocities that German soldiers found themselves forced to enact on Polish Jews when they invaded Poland and their reactions to their jobs. I had never thought about what these actions might have cost the simple German farmers who were Christians and did not hate the Jews or the Poles and how it might have caused them to choose death over a life with these memories.

Saving Amelie was researched very well and felt very genuine and real. I was astounded by the ruthlessness of the German Institutes in their sterilization and then killing of those they deemed to be imperfect. Even American scientists who believed in eugenics were taken in by the Nazi's schemes. The plot line of this novel was very well written and moved at the perfect pace so that I could connect with both the story and the characters. The descriptions of both the German cities and the small towns like the Passion town were beautifully done and really allowed me to picture what they must have been like in the 1940's. I also enjoyed learning about the real Passion town and also seeing how the townspeople worked together to save both their traditions and eventually those the Nazis wished to kill. The characters were realistic and well developed. There are two parallel storylines at the beginning of the novel; Rachel's life and Leah's. However, as the novel goes on, these storylines finally intersect and allow the reader to have a better idea what is occurring. At first, I really did not like Rachel's character. She was extremely selfish, jealous, and unwilling to believe what was actually happening. However, as the story progressed, she begins to change as she meets Christians, reads the Bible and The Cost of Discipleship, and experiences the love of a family. Leah is another important character who I liked more but who I quickly found had her own set of faults and prejudices that she had to work through. I was happy to see these two women begin to trust one another and God and to place their imperfections in His hands. Jason was probably one of my favorite characters because he was steady and determined to discover the truth. He did experience character growth as he met Bonhoeffer and as he realized there was more to life than having his byline on an important article. Overall, I highly enjoyed this novel. There was a great amount of sadness and despair in Saving Amelie, but the hope that can only come from showing love and trusting in God ultimately guided the story even through the dark times in Germany.

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


  1. Looks like a great novel! Look forward to reading this one soon. Thank you for your review.

  2. Thanks so much, Renn, for capturing the heart and soul of SAVING AMELIE for your readers in this review! God's blessings!