Monday, April 16, 2012
Book Review: From Dust and Ashes
Moody Publishers, $13.99 (2003)
In From Dust and Ashes, Tricia Goyer tells a story of faith and hope set against one of those dark times most people try not to think of - the aftermath of the Holocaust. Set in St. Georgen, Austria as World War II draws to a close in Europe, the author does an absolutely fabulous job of bringing the confusion and tragedy of that time to life. And even better, she lightens her story with hope of healing for her characters.<
The characters in this book are a disparate lot. The story opens as the pregnant wife of an SS concentration camp guard watches her husband flee their housing in the dead of night. They know that Allied troops approach, and much of the story focuses on what happens when they arrive. Unlike many of the SS wives, Helene comes from St. Georgen and her father takes her in after her husband leaves. When the troops arrive, Helene is moved by pity over what she discovers in the now-liberated camp and she and her father take two of the concentration camp survivors.
From there much of the story focuses on the recovery of the two women taken in by Helene as well as on Helene's own healing. Given the hatred of the SS among the survivors, the American troops and many of the townspeople, Helene keeps her past a secret. Some of the Americans befriend Helene and her family and one of them, Peter Scott, seems to take a special interest in Helene and her guests.
From some of the incidents in the book, it becomes obvious early on that even though the camp at St. Georgen is liberated, this is still a dangerous time. War has left the country quite unstable and in Austria, one also sees the tug of war between the Americans and the Soviets over the occupation of territory - a power struggle with huge day to day consequences for the Austrians being governed. And then there are the SS who have evaded capture and still cause trouble here and there. Amid all the intrigue, we see Helene, her friends from the camp, and Peter all learned to find hope in God and to rebuild. That message of faith and hope comes through this story loud and clear, and it's truly inspirational rather than preachy.
The author tells a very big, wide-ranging story in this novel and a huge cast of characters is required to weave all those strands of story together. One can tell that the author thoroughly researched her story and that she enjoyed her subject. It shows in the strong storytelling, and both the characters and the high adventure of this story kept me flying through the pages. Not only does Tricia Goyer tell a good story, but she tells one that uplifts and inspires the reader. While some of the details in this book are probably not for young children or for the squeamish, it's an excellent story and I recommend it.