Erich is a seventeen year old German sailor during WWII who is a prisoner of war in Canada, working in a logging camp in Northern Alberta. He’s not a fan of Nazi Germany (his father forced him to enlist) and he speaks fluent English (taught to him by his English grandfather) and so his fellow prisoners don’t trust him. But of course, neither do the Canadians in town. In fact some blame Erich (and the other prisoners) for the deaths of local boys fighting in the war.
Max is a twelve year old boy living in a nearby town. Although born in Canada, Max is the son of German immigrants and faces hostile discrimination from the other students at his school.
Thanks to a work release program, Erich is able to spend some time in town where he meets Max and the two become fast friends. Erich is protective of Max and wants to help him, especially when he hears of how much Max is being bullied, but as a prisoner of war, he’s limited by what he can do.
When there is trouble in the POW camp, Erich feels that his life is threatened no matter which way he turns, but he realizes that the most important thing he has is a friend.
What initially attracted me to this book was the general idea of a German POW being held in a camp in North America. I live not too far from an area that also had German prisoners of war during WWII and when I first learned about it my thought had been that there might be a good story in there.
Author Karen Bass takes great care to make these featured characters very real people in very real circumstances. Unfortunately, real people in real life are very rarely interesting enough to have a novel written about them.
This book takes great pains to make it real, but it does so at the expense of action and energy. At one point I made a note asking, “How many more times are we going to hear about Erich having trouble with people at camp?” The answer – a few more.
I started out having high hopes for the book and the first couple of chapters really seemed to establish the characters, but got bored waiting for something to happen beyond bullying, discrimination, and Erich’s yearning to be accepted.
Looking for a good book? Uncertain Soldier by Karen Bass has a great concept and well-drawn characters but the story takes too long for so little to happen.
I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Karen Bass
publisher: Pajama Press, Inc.
paperback, 265 pages