Title: Daisies Are Forever by Liz Tolsma
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Genre: Historical, Christian, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Gisela must hold on to hope and love despite all odds in the midst of a war-torn country.
Gisela Cramer is an American living in eastern Germany with her cousin Ella Reinhardt. When the Red Army invades, they must leave their home to escape to safety in Berlin.
However, Ella is a nurse and refuses to leave, sending her young daughters with Gisela. During their journey, Gisela meets Mitch Edwards, an escaped British POW. She pretends she is his wife in order to preserve his safety among other Germans, especially one wounded German soldier, Kurt, who has suspicions about Mitch’s identity. Kurt also has feelings for Gisela and tries to uncover the truth about her “marriage.”
Their journey to Gisela’s mother in Berlin is riddled with tragedy and hardship, but they strive to keep Ella’s daughters safe so they can reunite with their mother. During the journey Gisela and Mitch begin to develop feelings for one another beyond friendship. They reach Berlin, but their struggles are far from over. Gisela and Mitch must learn to live for the day and find hope in the darkest of circumstances.
In this moving, historically accurate portrayal of WWII Germany, the characters learn that, even with destruction all around them, some things last forever.
Daisies Are Forever by Liz Tolsma is a fascinating, action packed novel set in Germany in the days leading up to the Russian army’s invasion during the waning days of World War II. This faith-based romance is a richly detailed and historically accurate account based on true stories of two women’s real life experiences.
Daisies Are Forever begins as Gisela Cramer flees Prussia with her cousin’s two young daughters and three elderly neighbors. Their trek is filled with danger as they battle sub-zero temperatures, a shortage of food and the relentless attacks from the Russian Army. At one of their stops, Gisela impulsively steps in to protect Mitch Edwards, an escaped POW, and he joins the ragtag travelers as her pretend husband. Tragedy strikes just as they are about to embark on the next leg of their journey, and just as Gisela is about to be separated from the charges in her care, assistance arrives from Kurt Abt, a wounded German soldier. Danger and uncertainty continue plague them as they soldier onward in their journey to safety.
The cast of characters in Daisies Are Forever is eclectic but well-developed. Gisela is young, but growing up in war-torn Germany forced her to mature quickly. She has seen more than her fair of tragedy and loss and she shoulders the burden of guilt and blame for what she considers poor decisions. Gisela takes her responsibilities very seriously and she sometimes makes risky choices in an effort to fulfill her promises.
Mitch also carries a burden of guilt for the events that led to his capture and that of his comrades by German soldiers very early in the war. He also feels the weight of disappointment for not living up to his father’s expectations. Mitch is grateful for Gisela’s aid, but he is quickly torn between his desire to stay with Gisela and his duty to return to his fellow soldiers.
Kurt quickly becomes an external source of conflict for Gisela and Mitch as he tries to separate them for his own selfish reasons. He is frustrated by Gisela’s refusal to give in to his attempts to manipulate her. He is extremely suspicious of Mitch and refuses to believe that Gisela is Mitch’s wife. Kurt is an unlikable character and this casts doubts on many of his actions.
Elderly sisters Bettina and Katya bring a bit of levity to the story. Both are senile and most of the time, they are quite unaware of their perilous circumstances. They view the journey as a pleasure trip and they do not see the wartime destruction surrounding them. Instead, they think they have traveled to exotic and romantic locations from their past. They are sweet elderly ladies and most of the time, the rest of the group is grateful the sisters do not fully understand what is happening around them.
The romance between Mitch and Gisela is understated given the gravity of their situation. They grow close as they fight to protect everyone in their care. They also become close confidantes, sharing intimate details of events from their past that continue to haunt them. Both begin to lose their faith in God as events continue to spiral out of their control but just as they are at their lowest point, they are reminded of God’s benevolence.
Daisies Are Forever is another extensively researched and well-written novel. This heartbreakingly honest story is a raw and gritty depiction of the harsh living conditions and the serious dangers of wartime life. Liz Tolsma adroitly conveys the characters’ sense of urgency, their fears and their desperation as they try to escape the ravages of war. Realistic and insightful, I recommended this novel to fans of faith-based historical fiction.