I came across When We Meet Again when a friend shared this summer reading list with my book club. As I always do when I see these lists, I opened up Goodreads, added many of them to my to-read list, and then put them all on hold at my public library. Then, as it always happens, my holds started coming in all at once. For historical fiction fans who like a little mystery, this one is for you.
Summary from Goodreads:
Emily thinks she’s lost everything…until a mysterious painting leads her to what she wants most in the world. The new novel from the author of international bestsellers The Sweetness of Forgetting and The Life Intended shows why her books are hailed as “engaging” (People), “absorbing” (Kirkus Reviews) and “enthralling” (Fresh Fiction).
Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was a just a kid, her mom died when she was seventeen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well. But when she’s laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea…until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky. That woman is recognizable as her grandmother—and the painting arrived with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, “He always loved her.”
Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig. And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history. Her trail leads her to the POW internment camps of Florida, where German prisoners worked for American farmers…and sometimes fell in love with American women. But how does this all connect to the painting? The answer to that question will take Emily on a road that leads from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany and back to the Atlanta art scene before she’s done.
Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she’s seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history. But she still has secrets, ones she’s been keeping locked inside for years. Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last?
I have now added When We Meet Again to my list of “historical fiction books that have taught me something new about WWII.” I never realized that their were German POW camps in the United States during WWII. In the beginning I did struggle with the chapters as they moved back and forth between Emily, the main character searching to find her grandfather that she never knew, and the past love affair between Emily’s grandmother and the POW, Peter, who is her grandfather. Once I made the connection between the past and present, I would not put the book down. The story was beautifully written and tears formed in my eyes as I got to the closing chapters. I did not want the story to end. Not only was it a story of true love, but it was also a story of forgiveness and letting go of the guilt that comes with not being a “perfect” parent. This was the first story I have read by Kristin Harmel, but it will not be the last.