The Path Divided
Every choice has a consequence.
When a magical picture frame reveals the danger facing a teenage traitor, her best friend hatches a plan to sneak her out of Nazi Germany. Options are few. Choices are desperate.
Decades later, an aged Nazi hiding under an alias plans to die with his secrets intact. Confronted with his role in the fate of his sister and her best friend, he must decide: maintain his charade or face the consequences of the path he chose so long ago.
In this powerful conclusion to Risking Exposure, interwoven tales of guilt, sacrifice, and hope crack the thin divide between personal safety and loyalty to those we claim to love.
Genre: YA Historical Fiction / Magical Realism
Author: Jeanne Moran
Paperback, 295 pages
Published: November 12th, 2018
What was life like for German children, their friends and families in the years leading up to WWII? How did the changes that occurred and the politics and propaganda of their leadership affect daily living circumstances and views? What did the children see?
The Path Divided centers between the years of 1933 – 1939 and tells the story of Renate (Rennie), her older brother Werner and a cast of characters around the setting of real events that happened leading up to the war like the Nuremberg (Nürnberg) Rally, the Reichskristallnacht, the Lebensborn program, the T4 program, the Rat Line, the Kindertransport, the exportation and the aggressions against Romany or Romani peoples considered Gypsies (Ziegeuner) and the Jewish.
This book adheres to two timelines. The one above and another that is told by Werner after the war in more recent years as an old man. Hanging in suspense from one to the other, both timelines are also told with flashbacks of memories that become equally important in the buildup and understanding of everything and it begins in the year 1938 and jumps to earlier times.
Rennie has been sent to a farm to work and help with household chores after her parents have passed away. The little time she has for herself, she likes to read and practice for theater roles. On the side, she is part of the BDM (Bund Deutscher Mädchen). She is a studious, patient and good-natured girl who misses her friend Sophie, who has polio and gone missing, terribly. She keeps a picture of her and her best friend in a frame that she has been given to her by a Romani woman and it shows her the meaning of her actions by coloring their paths in the picture in different colors. She knows she has to find Sophie to get her path into the green, but her chances are low as her friend has been branded a traitor for something that happened in the first book.
Werner is loyal to the party with vigor and determination. He has been put down and bullied by his father, who was a SA officer, in his childhood years that lead him to believe he was a weakling and unworthy. He witnesses his father’s death in a cold shooting in what they called the purge (I believe in 1934) and their uncle, a high ranking party official is guiding Werner’s way.
Rennie’s efforts do not go unnoticed. Eyes and ears are everywhere. Werner brings her back home, to keep her safe or rather control her, to work at a local friend’s bakery. Rennie takes care of everything now. As the men, boys and political events become more revved up, she seems to become more and more emotionally separated from her brother and his views. As events heighten after the Reichskristallnacht, people of non-Aryan heritage and the disabled are afraid and try to flee the country. Rennie knows some of her friends are Jewish and she always has a helping hand for anyone in need. So, she becomes involved in a dangerous operation of messaging, signaling and hiding to help her friends to get out of Germany.
As things crescendo into a life and death situation, she makes a choice so brave, it will change the fate of all involved. And so it is to be told by Werner after the war what has happened as he lies on his deathbed, ready to be taken for his sins.
This novel was the perfect mix of real events and a suspenseful plot. With as much subject matter there is in those years leading to WWII, Moran did an amazing job creating a storyline around it while conveying an authentic German atmosphere. In that regards it was very well researched.
I do enjoy reading WWII historical fiction novels and most of them are for adults or are centered on the actual war. This one was refreshingly different. Both characters were from the opposite end of the spectrum but the reader becomes whiteness to the growth of evil. Werner is the perfect example of the vulnerability of a nation. His experience with his dad and his developing OCD has left him rigid and receiving the propaganda of his leaders. A need for cause and direction in life led to the ideology he was holding on to. The novel even borderlines the story of many SS men not believing in Hitler’s death and working towards the creation/population of the Aryan race in South America. Brainwashed, these men have built up walls in themselves to separate their emotions to justify their actions and not see the reality.
Moran captured the traits and customs of the German people in this story perfectly and used some lingo that is explained in a glossary with listed research material at the end of the book.
I definitely will recommend this book to those interested in the subject and feel that it is suitable for middle-grade students and up, although it is listed as a YA novel.
I received a digital copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are my own. Thank you!