Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon

Title: From Sand and Ash
Series: Standalone
Author: Amy Harmon
Release date: December 1, 2016
Cliffhanger: No
Rating: 5 stars


Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.

As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.

Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.

But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.

Yet again, Amy Harmon has written something so substantial, so moving, that I can't collect the proper thoughts to express my feelings for this amazing expression of love. Based on the fact that this book takes place in occupied Italy during WW2, I knew that it would be painfully hard to read at points, if not throughout the entirety.

The harsh realities of the lives of the people in Italy during this time were staggering. The horrors of the Holocaust are widespread and far reaching to this very day. We hear about what the Jewish people were forced to endure and it makes us shudder just to even imagine their overwhelming suffering. But what about the indoctrination period? Do you ever sit and wonder how evil of this magnitude could trickle into everyday life? Until it's no longer a trickle, it's a flood of hate and torment that drowns everyone in its path?

Her hands shook and her stomach revolted, and every horrified breath felt like fire in her throat. Yet still she sat, composed, her terror held inside the bony cage that sheltered her war-torn heart and her shrapnel-riddled lungs.

This book shines a light on how something so inconceivable to us became the mundane. Fear and uncertainty ruled every day. Things would get better if they just kept quiet and kept their heads down, if they waited it out. The characters were fictional, but the emotions, the events were chillingly real. Harmon's detail in depicting the setting, and the delicacy of their attraction growing amid the horrors that surrounded them is a startling contrast. Perhaps making the purity of their devotion to one another even more powerful.

It was love that made each touch feel like redemption and each kiss feel like rebirth. Not lust. Not pleasure. It was love that created joy.

Angelo and Eva had the type of relationship that many would condemn. Growing up, being raised together like brother and sister, and of such differing religious faiths made them the consummate forbidden pair. But the strength of their connection to one another was absolute. It defied years of separation, denial, and discouragement. It defied war and humiliation and despair. Their abiding love to one another could never be extinguished or tempered no matter what battered at them. Their struggle, it moved me to tears many times. It was honest, and achingly unyielding.

He didn’t know how to heal her or hold her or save her. He didn’t know how to be what she needed. All he knew was that he loved her desperately. Desperately.

For some, this story would be too harsh to experience. Knowing the trials that face these characters are all too uncomfortable for its truth. But for me, a story like this is necessary. It serves to remind us of the horrible path this world has taken, one that must never, ever be forgotten. But it also shows how just a glimmer of hope can have miraculous results even in our darkest hours. It reveals to readers with profound and sensitive skill that sometimes, love can conquer all.

Angelo and Eva were beautiful souls struggling to make sense of their feelings, their faith, and survival by any means possible. This is one of those books that is so insightful and exquisite, I feel like I'm better for having read it. I read this in one day, cover to cover, feeling desperate for the world to right itself again. I wasn't an impartial observer, I was right in the middle of their battle. I stayed up until 3 AM in order to find peace, I never could have settled without knowing the final fate of these characters. It was just that intense.

Amy Harmon has done it again, she has proved herself to be the kind of writer who can write in any genre, on any topic and make me grateful that I was lucky enough to have experienced her gift of words.


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