Published by Bethany House on November 3, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Historical
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Headstrong Johanna Berglund, a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota, has very definite plans for her future . . . plans that do not include returning to her hometown and the secrets and heartaches she left behind there. But the US Army wants her to work as a translator at a nearby camp for German POWs.
Johanna arrives to find the once-sleepy town exploding with hostility. Most patriotic citizens want nothing to do with German soldiers laboring in their fields, and they're not afraid to criticize those who work at the camp as well. When Johanna describes the trouble to her friend Peter Ito, a language instructor at a school for military intelligence officers, he encourages her to give the town that rejected her a second chance.
As Johanna interacts with the men of the camp and censors their letters home, she begins to see the prisoners in a more sympathetic light. But advocating for better treatment makes her enemies in the community, especially when charismatic German spokesman Stefan Werner begins to show interest in Johanna and her work. The longer Johanna wages her home-front battle, the more the lines between compassion and treason become blurred--and it's no longer clear whom she can trust.
Amy Lynn Green’s Things We Didn’t Say avoids common pitfalls for Christian fiction, provides a nuanced and realistic look at faith, and has mainstream appeal. The characters are very compelling, and Amy Lynn Green does an amazing job of telling a satisfying story through an epistolary style. I found the main character’s voice believable and compelling, and laughed out loud many times at her funny descriptions and unique turns of phrase. The letter writers also had distinct voices, unlike in the bestselling The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, the most obvious read-alike. I also think that this book took its occasionally heavy themes more seriously than the other.
This World War II story engages in a thoughtful way with serious issues related to war, patriotism, friendship, family, faith, education, and calling. It also involves multiple different voices, ranging from Jo, the main character, to her friend, Peter Ito, to the town’s pastor, to the newspaper man, to Jo’s roommate and college officials, to various members of the town who submit newspaper editorials. Things We Didn’t Say also includes letters that Jo processed and censored in the POW camp, both to and from German soldiers. All of the voices and personalities are unique, and the tension between different characters helps to drive the plot. I really enjoyed this book, and would give it five stars if not for some pacing issues. Because the author consistently foreshadows a coming disaster, I found the middle somewhat plodding, and the ultimate disaster seemed rather anticlimactic and rushed. Overall, however, this is still an excellent story.
This is a great book for people who enjoy clean historical fiction, World War II settings, or Christian books that are subtle and not preachy. It can also open readers’ eyes to the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II, and the dilemmas faced by German prisoners of war and the Americans who had to make ethical decisions about caring for them. Even though I was already familiar with most of the historical information that the author brought into the story, the personal details that she evoked are memorable and humanizing. I would definitely recommend this book, and am excited to see what the author does next.