Paul M. Fleming’s WHEN COURAGE COMES is, on the surface, a warm and touching story about the ability of love and human connection to stand the tests of war, hatred, and violence. A bit deeper down, though, it is a challenging and thought-provoking look at the difficulty of choosing the courageous but dangerous path of resisting and standing up to evil systems and people, when they have the power to threaten your family, your loved ones, and your very life.
Stephan is a conscript – his parents resisted Nazi invasion of their home country of Austria as long and as much as they could, but neither they nor Stephan could resist enough to keep him from being drafted into the German Army. He’s rather relieved to be taken prisoner, in fact, and treated relatively kindly by the Americans, but the threat of Nazi sympathizers within the camps confronts him, again, with the key choice of standing up to their evil or keeping his head down and just trying to survive as best he can. Meanwhile, Rose faces growing qualms over the unchallenged, unquestioned racism she’s grown up with in a small Texas town, especially as it affects the Bauer family’s longtime overseer, Clyde, and his daughter Barbara. In both cases, the danger facing them is solidly real, and has power over them, both social and physical. In both cases, they have to choose to take action anyway, for the sake of their consciences, and because it’s the right thing to do.
WHEN COURAGE COMES doesn’t downplay the difficulty of these choices, or how hard they are to make – in both cases the evil is firmly cemented into the power structures of their society. The story’s characters feel real, well-developed, and familiar – the pressures on them are deftly drawn and their reactions and emotions are fully human. The growing mutual attraction between Stephan and Rose at first seems a bit shallow, given how little they initially interact, but there is a quiet sweetness to their moments together that communicates a deep, heartfelt connection without need for too many words. Rose’s wise, gentle grandmother, known only as Oma, is the moral touchstone of the story, combining the loving ability to reach out to others even across the barriers of war, and the courage to face down evil even in her own community, and it is the fact that Rose takes after her that makes her a worthy heroine. In short, this book is at its core a powerful argument for the triumph of love and courage over even the most deeply rooted and threatening evils.
WHEN COURAGE COMES is a heartwarming story about finding courage to confront societal injustice and cruelty, from the perspective of an Austrian POW in World War II and the German-American family that befriends him.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader