Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Life Behind the Wall

Title: Life Behind the Wall

Series: None

Year: 2014

Author: Robert Elmer

Summary: Cut off by the Iron Curtain. This epic tale extends across generations and unfolds against the backdrop of a dangerous Cold War Berlin. This historically accurate, action-packed, three-books-in-one edition features three generations of resourceful teens living in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. Titles include: Candy Bombers: In spring 1948, teenage cousins Erich and Katarina are simply trying to survive in war-ravaged Berlin when the Soviets blockade the east side of the city, isolating its citizens---and starving them---behind the Iron Curtain. Beetle Bunker: In August 1961, Sabine discovers a forgotten underground bunker. Though she first uses it to escape her crowded home, she soon realizes her hideout could possibly take her family under the wall to West Berlin and freedom! Smuggler's Treasure: In spring 1989, life is good in West Germany, and even the Cold War seems to be thawing in the warmer weather. But as Liesl works on a class project about the history of the wall, she stumbles onto a startling secret no one will talk about. (from Goodreads)

Main Characters:
~ Erich Becker
~ Sabine DeWitt
~ Leisl Stumpff

Review: When I first picked up this book, I expected three tales, relatively the same, about life behind the wall -- the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. And while it was all I expected historically (and more besides, I might add), everything in Life Behind the Wall exceeded my every hope. For one thing, it's not three separate tales. Well, technically it is, but it emcompasses the story of one family, in three parts. Each one is cleverly connected to the others, and I finished the book feeling very satisfied, as if I'd just read a full novel rather than three simple tales. Exciting, dangerous, fun, and rich -- this is one book you're not going to want to miss.

Candy Bombers starts things out with thirteen-year-old Erich Becker who is eager to help his starving family in any way he can. And that includes sneaking onto an American air base and bringing home a chocolate candy bar. One successful mission encourages him to do more, but his second attempt turns around in a manner that he never expected. Erich is a wonderful hero, and I really enjoyed his story. I sympathized with his struggles, and I was really glad to see that he was a more-or-less prominent character in the other two stories.

Beetle Bunker picks up the story with Erich's half sister, Sabine, a young girl with polio. She can get around with crutches well enough, but her whole world changes when the Berlin Wall appears almost overnight... separating their home directly in half. The bunker she finds later on seems at first to be a safe haven, somewhere she could read Black Beauty in peace without having to worry about someone becoming offended for her reading an inappropriate book. She befriends a young boy who shares her dislike of the Wall, but what can two teenagers do against the cold hearts of their government? Sabine knows life on the wrong side of the wall is getting harder, and it's only a matter of time before danger envelopes everyone she loves. 

Smuggler's Treasure tells the last part of the tale, starring Sabine's daughter, Liesl. There is nothing more that Liesl wants in the world than to understand the past. Her mother and her grandmother won't speak of the days gone by, and even her beloved Onkle Erich doesn't really want to tell her what she yearns to know. When a school paper presents her with the opportunity to do a little research, Liesl dives right in. Finding out her family's greatest secret (or perhaps the greatest secret kept from her family) might take Liesl into strange places... even on the wrong side of the Wall where the Communist rule contradicts everything she believes. 

Advisory: Some violence; characters get into fights, get arrested and jailed, etc. but nothing graphic.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

*Please note: I received a copy of this book courtesy of BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my honest review.*
Click here to buy Life Behind the Wall on Amazon!

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