Verdict: Haunting and poignant, SECRETS AND SHADOWS is a beautifully written historical novel.
SECRETS AND SHADOWS is a novel about the dangers of the secrets people keep. Paul Bertram, born Paul Berger, is living the American Dream. He has a successful career, a beautiful wife, and wonderful children. Yet for his wife, Eve, their idyllic life is far from perfect. By 1989, the couple have been divorced for several years. When the Berlin Wall falls, Paul decides it is time to finally face his past and revisit the city where he spent his childhood. Convincing his ex-wife to accompany him on the journey, Paul resolves to finally confess the truth about his past.
SECRETS AND SHADOWS examines two major historical events: World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall. While it is a historical novel, the issues explored in its pages are timeless; at its core, SECRETS AND SHADOWS is a novel about the complexity of human nature and how a person’s past defines them. Not all of the Holocaust’s victims died during the war — many of them went on to live long lives while trying to put the past behind them. Paul’s assimilation into American culture at first seems like a miraculous story of survival, but he is not as well-adjusted as he appears. Through flashbacks, Paul’s troubled past is revealed and Eve slowly learns of the role it played in destroying their marriage. Author Roberta Silman’s decision to set the novel in 1989 and look at Nazi Germany through flashbacks creates a chilling effect. In viewing the man Paul has become because of his experiences during the war, the long-lasting effects of the Holocaust became painfully apparent.
SECRETS AND SHADOWS is a story of human nature pushed to its limits. Silman passes no judgement upon her characters, but rather portrays them as flawed creatures making the most out of grim situations. Through her nuanced and relatable characters, Silman creates a masterpiece out of an already compelling novel. SECRETS AND SHADOWS is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of forgiveness. A remarkably astute and haunting novel, it reminds readers that the Second World War is not as long ago as we might think it is, and that its aftermath is still experienced by people alive today.
~Christine-Marie Liwag Dixon for IndieReader