Author: Nina Willner
“At twenty, Hanna escaped from East to West Germany. But the price of freedom—leaving behind her parents, eight siblings, and family home—was heartbreaking. Uprooted, Hanna eventually moved to America, where she settled down with her husband and had children of her own. Growing up near Washington, D.C., Hanna’s daughter, [author] Nina Willner became the first female Army Intelligence Officer to lead sensitive intelligence operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. Though only a few miles separated American Nina and her German relatives—grandmother Oma, Aunt Heidi, and cousin, Cordula, a member of the East German Olympic training team—a bitter political war kept them apart.” (Source)
As you can tell from the description, Nina and her family lived incredibly interesting lives. In this book, Nina did a great job telling their story in an engaging way. She included enough family history that I felt I got to know the people she wrote about. She also picked events that were exciting to read about and wove them into a cohesive narrative which was both personal and connected to world events. I don’t think a historical fiction author could have come up with a better story to make me feel a connection to the ‘characters’ while learning something interesting about history too.
The writing was enjoyable, clear and easy to follow. I loved the family tree and timeline, although people were introduced clearly enough that I didn’t ever need them to understand what was happening. My impression is that this book was well researched. Of course the author had access to family records and interviews, but she references outside sources as well. Although I was a bit slow getting through this book during a busy week, I could happily have read it one sitting. It was very engaging and I’d unhesitatingly recommend to any fan of historical fiction. This will almost certainly be one of my top nonfiction reads of the year.