Read Saints and Villains by Denise Giardina Online


In the charnel house that was Europe in the Second World War, there were few instances of shining moral courage, let along secular sainthood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and Nazi resister was the exception. This emblematic figure risked his life--and finally lost it--through his participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler and topple his regime. SainIn the charnel house that was Europe in the Second World War, there were few instances of shining moral courage, let along secular sainthood. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian and Nazi resister was the exception. This emblematic figure risked his life--and finally lost it--through his participation in a failed plot to assassinate Hitler and topple his regime. Saints and Villains gives us this exemplary life in a sweeping narrative that is bold in conception and utterly convincing in its power of imaginative reconstruction....

Title : Saints and Villains
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ISBN : 9780449004272
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Saints and Villains Reviews

  • Jonathan
    2019-04-09 21:27

    Oh dear me, I am very glad I read this book. It was actually very different from what I expected. I think the aspect of the book that was most different from my expectations was also the one that I most appreciated, and that was how un-heroic Bonhoeffer's story was. Throughout so much of the book it was hard to believe both for me as a reader and it seemed Bonhoeffer as a character that any of the things he was able to do could have actually been a threat to Hitler's life. In a way the very incremental and disassociated aspects of the plot against Hitler's life remind me of the how social change work usually feels. It is hard to feel like the little ways that any of us resist tyranny or try to build a new society actually could ever or ever do add up to anything. And maybe they don't. I of course also liked that Myles Horton had a cameo. And Giardina's weaving the Hawks Nest disaster into the story made me think of Maya Nye!I know that the attention paid to Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazi regime in Germany often overshadows many other egregious injustices, but when I read a book like this I can't help but think we must not let a day go by that we forget what happened during that Holocaust. It was useful and compelling to be with Bonhoeffer as layer after layer of the horror of the Nazi regime is revealed. It is impossible for me not to wonder: would I notice it, would I get it, how would I respond? Would I take action? Would that action be couragouse, foolish, useful?

  • Chrissie
    2019-04-03 21:14

    Is this the best book I have ever read about WW2? Maybe so. A perfect blend of fact and fiction. Fiction can help teach. I read sonewhere here on GoodReads a comment that the reader disliked non-fiction because it was so boring. OMG I believe the total opposite. There is no way that authors can dream up what life really throws at us. Emotionally, this is not an easy read, but it is impossible to put down. You can go on because the author writes of the true to life mixture of horror and beauty. If you open ypur eyes there is beauty and kindness and wonderful things going on at the same time as the horror. How is it possible to get through life if we are blind to the good things that are happening all around us? Giardina shows both. You are making a big mistake if you just put this on your to-read shelf. Read it soon!

  • Jennifer
    2019-04-10 20:14

    As recently as two weeks ago I was shaking my head at the "inflammatory rhetoric" comparing Trump to Hitler. And then I started reading this book (published in 1999, and therefore in no way attempting to reference current events). I would have enjoyed it under any circumstances, as it is fascinating and well-written. But given the events of the past 12 days in the United States, the narrative was chilling, the section in 1933 especially so. I view having read it during these 12 days in particular as an act of resistance, and a call to bravery. Despite his apparent failures, Bonhoeffer is truly a hero.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-04-12 16:10

    Wow, what a story. Hard to read but important, I am not a huge fan on dwelling on humanity’s cruelness but during those times, so much goodness shines through as well. The author did a great job of writing it in a compelling story. Only 4 stars because the verb tense seemed weird to me, it was hard to put a finger on it; also since it is a novel about a real person and events, I kept wondering if this or that really happened. I looked up several things to confirm. Bonhoeffer is a modern saint but this story did a great job of showing his human side and his weaknesses.After reading six books this year about black Americans (two women’s story, slave fiction, Civil Rights true stories and more) I thought I was going was to be reading about a different topic, but a huge hole in my knowledge about DB was that he traveled and studied in America and the black church really influenced him and his stance on prejudice, rights and social justice!One of my favorite characters (and real person) is British Bell. His speech to his fellow countrymen and leaders about area bombing was amazing and I love that is he had to do it as a Christian (p 374). Sometimes I think that WWII was the last ‘just’ war but even in it, things happened on the Allied side that were unjust. Just as Bell considered himself a patriot as well as a follower of Jesus, DB maintained his love of his country, calling it out on wrongs because of that love. I think we can view our country (and our children) in two ways. 1. That we love them so much, we can’t imagine them doing anything wrong and will justify instead of speak up if they do or 2. that we love them so much that we lovingly confront any wrong in order to help it stay aligned with its values and to help it be even better. I think that is a lot of our current nation’s division problem, two groups having two different takes on that.Which of course leads to our current president in the US, Trump. When I first began this book, I thought-yeah most comparisons of Trump to Hitler falls short as Trump isn’t making opponents disappear or be killed. Though the resistors of our day are often brought to mind while reading such as this conversation.DB: what do we accomplish by treating him as if he were legitimate?N: Damn it, man, he is legitimate. He’s running the country, in you’ve forgotten!While reading, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect issued a statement comparing the two including “creates his own media; exploits youth at a rally; endorses police brutality; demonizes people who believe, look or love differently; strips vulnerable people of their families, jobs and ability to live; and believes Congress should change its rules to give him more power.”Wow, ok, I’ll just leave that there. Which of course leads us to the question of when it is ok to kill? In war? I have heard people give DB as an example of why it might be okay to kill abortion doctors!I do think these things should be discussed. I think in American, especially in the church we have gotten lazy. We now longer discuss pacifism (as DB was) and just war, we are just okay with preemptive strikes and torture.No easy answers.

  • peter
    2019-04-02 18:20

    Very much enjoyed how this book humanized the legendary Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I was challenged and inspired by his story.I was amazed, as well, by the numerous parallels between Hitler's Germany and our current political environment. Of course there are significant differences, but with certain passages I had to stop and remind myself that this book was written long before the era of Trump."[Bonhoeffer] shakes his head and decides this new tactic will fail, for how will anyone be able to bear the stale jokes and forced humor, the historical inaccuracies, spiritual vapidity, and upside-down logic that characterize Hitler's speech?""I believe," Niemoller said, "that Hitler is surrounded by fools and charlatans, and that he receives bad advice. But he's also quite obviously an intelligent man. He wouldn't have got as far as he has otherwise. Who knows, perhaps he's capable of listening to other voices as well. If so, we can do a great deal to alleviate the harsher measures the Nazis have proposed."Bonhoeffer: "First, we Christians can challenge the state's actions and ask the state to live up to its responsibilities. Second, we must do everything we can to help those who have been victimized by the state. That includes those victims who are not part of the Christian community ... Third, if these first two courses of action do not achieve satisfactory results, we are obligated not just to bandage those who have been broken beneath the wheel of the state, but to jam a spoke in the wheel itself."Bonhoeffer: "A national church which accepts Nazi policies may be popular, but it will never be Christian."Bonhoeffer: "But I find now that I am angry, always angry. It's not just the bullying and the threats. It's the way all logic and knowledge and reason are twisted into their exact opposites. So that it is no longer possible to converse with these people. Only to scream at them...""Dr Frank Buchman, the great American evangelist, is in Berlin for the Games. At the Adlon Hotel he attends lavish receptions, holds private meetings with Himmler and Goebbels, and even talks briefly with Hitler himself. The Fuhrer assures Dr Buchman his work is appreciated and no roadblocks will be placed in the way as he preaches the Gospel ... [Buchman] suggests the the Nazis, like Franco in Spain, are making the world safe for true Christianity and protecting the West from godless Communism ... "I thank God for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the Antichrist of Communism...Of course I don't condone everything the Nazis do. Anti-Semitism? Bad, naturally...But think what it would mean to the world if Hitler surrendered to the control of God...Through such a man God could control a nation overnight and solve every last, bewildering problem."

  • Mary Helene
    2019-04-18 17:07

    It's odd to read a novel about a historical person in this century. I kept puzzling while I was reading whether, for example, his girlfriend was fictional or real, since I'd never heard of her. She's fictional but she fills a useful function in a novel. I recommend reading the author's note at the end first, if this sort of incongruence is going to bother you. I read this book because the book club I belong to in town was reading it and I was dismissive of the idea that I might learn something, but ah! I did. The author draws parallels with our time that are not unwarranted. The insight into courage which is what I almost always hope to draw from biography was there in this novel.

  • Annika
    2019-04-07 00:11

    This is probably one of my very favorites of all times. I was first introduced to Denise Giardina through an Appalachian studies class, and learned of her Appalachian writings. This is a completely different genre, but she does an excellent job of developing an theologic figure into a three dimensional human being. I felt like I could relate, on some level to his struggles to continue to believe. Plus, it made me curious to learn more about the historical Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I've read it twice, and will probably read it again!

  • Suzanne Freeman
    2019-04-10 22:11

    I'm currently fascinated with Dietrich Bonhoeffer and have also just finished the Metaxes biography—a much better book. What I didn't like about this novelization of Bonhoeffer's life is that he comes off as a person who was pushed along by events rather than someone acting out of moral conviction. The very point of Bonhoeffer's writings — and his death — was that he acted out of his Christian moral convictions. Giardina did not do him justice.

  • Mark
    2019-04-19 17:18

    I entered the fictionalization of the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer with some trepidation, since he is one of my heroes. But Denise Giardina did a fine job with this, evoking the evolution the German pastor went through and his eventual decision to join in a plot to assassinate Hitler, which he paid for with his life. Very well done.

  • Diane Kaplowitz
    2019-04-14 22:23

    This is my all time favorite book about the plight of the jewish people in world war II and Dietrich Bonhoeffer's (Chrisian theologian and martyr)effort to help overturn the Nazi regime which cost him his life. Written as historical fiction, but the main story line is based on fact.

  • Donna
    2019-04-09 22:13

    I picked up this book partly because I wanted to read something by Denise Giardina, a renowned West Virginia author. I was surprised to find this, inasmuch as I assumed all of her books were about Appalachia. But, I have always been intrigued with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but didn't know much at all about his life, so I picked it up. I was hesitant to read this because I realize it was a work of historical fiction, and I do intend to delve more into the life of this heroic and brilliant man.With that being said- WHAT AN AUTHOR!!! I loved her prose, and, although the subject matter was very intense, it was written in a way that compelled me to keep reading. Reading this story in our current political climate made it that much more chilling- to realize that an entire country could so easily be swept up in a fever of patriotic fervor while ignoring warnings that bubbled below the surface. I will eagerly seek out Ms. Giardina's other books!

  • Rhonda Stroud
    2019-04-20 20:07

    A diary of the birth, the flourishing and collapse.This is no bodice-ripper masquerading as historical fiction. If you have always wondered what it was like to live in Germany, especially from 1933-1941, as a good person within the Reich, this is a fantastic book. At times the writing feels so immediate it's hard to remember it is a piece of fiction. For readers not totally immersed in Nazi Germany, it will be helpful to have access to Wikipedia to look up facts, but not it's not required to understand on an emotional level. The question the author wants us to ponder is, how does a person with good morals exist during a regime that utilizes all its power to corrupt and commit atrocities. This book was some of the best I've ever read, truly a masterwork

  • Mike Burke
    2019-03-31 18:06

    I've been interested in Dietrich Bonhoeffer for several years and was interested in learning more about the man. Now that I've read this novel about his life and times, I'm still interested in learning more about the man and his work. This work definitely describes his life, attitudes and the times (ie the German Third Reich).

  • Grace
    2019-04-18 23:10

    A timely re-read.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-06 22:58

    I find myself wavering about how to rate this book. As a believer in non-violence I think that despite the hostile spirit in which it is usually raised, the "What about Hitler?" question is not entirely a straw man. Although I interpret the ultimate thrust of scripture as one that cannot be reconciled with the "kingdoms of this world" and their institutionalization of violence through war (and other means), I cannot believe Christians are called to anything but radical action in the face of overwhelming evil. Knowing for years that Dietrich Bonhoeffer struggled with this tension and made (what has seemed to me) perhaps the only right decision in his circumstances--even while believing it might endanger his soul--I've wanted to read more about him for a while. However, I've been a little intimated by the ponderous biographical volumes I've seen and reading a novelized biography seemed like a good way to start becoming acquainted with the general outline of Bonhoeffer's experience. I'm not so sure now, because this work is very much a novelization. It often combines key characters and also invents several characters who may be seen as the novel's catalysts. Secondly, the clear dichotomy of the title's "saints and villains" may become blurred early on if you grew up in a puritanical faith like mine, in which everything from pipe-smoking to premarital sex becomes a taint on the character. However, although depictions of sexuality (specifically in relation to one setting himself up as a Christian ethicist) may have made me more ambiguous about Bonhoeffer's character, I think that's a good thing. It's too easy to separate our "saints" into a realm of asexual purity while we as individuals go on struggling as villains. (SPOILER: The portrayal of Bonhoeffer's relationship with his fiancee was mildly disturbing, mostly because of the age gap, but, again, the experience of thinking about how one person is not confined to binary descriptors or experiences is precisely why reading a book like this is valuable.) I suppose I also expected more "theologizing" or grand flights of religious feeling, whereas Bonhoeffer himself often seemed primarily interested in religion as an academic exercise to be kept pure and rigorous. There were, however, certain sections in which spirituality and human emotion merged to create beautiful and affecting passages. Unfortunately, I didn't have hard copy in which I could mark these. That blurry line between saints and villains is also embodied in the novel through another invented character, a Nazi interrogator who is depicted as Bonhoeffer's "doppelganger," and the thread of a Latin mass by Mozart that joins the two characters is a strangely evocative feature.So... martyrs don't have angel's wings or they wouldn't be burned; saints become canonized when they've been an impetus for enough miracles, not when they are born in blood, wailing just like the rest of us. The novel's examination of how a man becomes a saint is augmented by including a narrative thread about T.S. Eliot writing "Murder in the Cathedral." Anyone who knows my feelings about Eliot--as problematic a "fave" as ever there was--will not have to guess that this portion made me jump up and down a little. I find myself these days thinking: What would I say about this book if I were teaching? Would I include it on my syllabus? I think--pending a reread--the answer might be yes. Despite it's length, for mature students eager to engage in the kind of ethical issues that have perhaps only grown more complicated since World War II, I think it could initiate important discussion. Other questions it might raise might include: Since Bonhoeffer was not himself at the forefront of the failed assassination attempts on Hitler, and since he chose this means of sacrifice rather than rescuing Jews, is this "failure" still heroism? (What is heroism?) Does the arc of the story or the "facts" matter more? Brave as Bonhoeffer was, is it possible that too much attention to his story may fall into something of a "white savior" type complex and detract from the stories of those who faced racial genocide? (It's important to note that while the Third Reich enacted systematic genocide on Jews and Romani people, they also committed horrific crimes against Communists, LGBT people, and the old and non-neurotypical. One of the strengths of this book is that it does show elements of how the American and English fear of Communism facilitated tolerance for the Nazis for quite some time.) Although I now really want to read a "real"* biography of Bonhoeffer, I hope that I will have time to come back and explore this work and these questions in more detail in the future. *In her Afterward, Giardina rightly points out the interpretive aspect of all biography.

  • booklady
    2019-03-26 19:58

    ‘See, the nations count as a drop in the bucket, as a wisp of cloud on the scales; the coastlands weigh no more than a speck. . . . Before him all the nations are as naught, as nothing and void he counts them. To whom can you liken God? With what likeness can you confront him?’ (Isaiah 40:15, 17-18)In her biographical novel, Saints and Villains, Diana Giardina does a masterful job tracing a probable spiritual journey of Dietrich Bonhoeffer beginning with his intellectual study of theology to the awakening of his conscience as the realities and complexities of life under the Third Reich unfolded. Giardina describes Bonhoeffer’s early pre-war life through the miserable years he spent living a half life as a spy, a ‘theologian of ambiguities’ patriotic in a higher sense, appearing a traitor by all outward appearances. Although he was misjudged by almost everyone—even those closest to him—what brought Bonhoeffer the most suffering during the war was his inability to take decisive action. When he saw such great injustices all around him, he could do so little: to help the Jews, his own family and friends, to end the war, even to eliminate Hitler. Giardina weaves other important historical characters into her story including: the great British Bishop George Bell and the young student conspirators Sophie and Hans Scholl (the White Rose) who were also martyred. I found the novel both moving and believable, despite it being fiction. I appreciated Giardina’s empathic rendering of Bonhoeffer the patriot who comes to see there is a higher duty than nation—as described many years ago by the Prophet Isaiah.For the sake of the novel, the author introduces characters and composite characters and takes license with history which the reader not well acquainted with Bonhoeffer’s actual biography would be advised to note beforehand. This is a work of fiction, however much the author has tried to base it on the broader facts of a great man's life.Most highly recommended!

  • Diane
    2019-04-21 00:22

    3.5. I really liked the first half of the book depicting Bonhoeffer's early life, his year at Union Theological Seminary in NYC, his time as a pastor in England, and his rejection of the German state church. Giardina does a good job of dramatizing the difference between Bonhoeffer and American theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr and of portraying his shock at American racial discrimination. Bonhoeffer was an extremely private person, cerebral and emotionally repressed, a man whose interior life was more important than his relationships to people. To overcome this difficulty, Giardina creates three fictitious characters in order to dramatize the development of Bonhoeffer's thought and moral commitments. Bonhoeffer tests his ideas in conversations with them or as they challenge him to act. This device, however,often creaks along, impeding the narrative, or in the case of the Nazi guard Aloise Bauer it just seems too improbable. Not only Dietrich but father, brothers, sisters and brother-in-law actively opposed Hitler--and several lost their lives because of it. What made this family different from so many other upper-middle class professional families in Germany? The novel whetted my appetite for a more in-depth historical account of Bonhoeffer, a biography rather than an imaginative reconstruction of his life.

  • Kerrfunk
    2019-03-24 19:13

    I'm glad I read this. The author clearly states that it is an imaginative and fictionalized biography, and I thought I was good with that, really, but as the book went on it bugged me, more, I'd say, because I don't know the real details.I did very much appreciate the narrative of the war and the events leading up to it, along with the personal perspective and growth of Pastor Bonhoeffer.There was something about Giardina's writing that just didn't jive with me. Something about her sentence structure or vocabulary, or maybe the transitions that sometimes left me wondering "wait, how did we get here?" I don't know. It's like somebody added a flavor to my coffee, a subtle flavor that I don't really like but they do. It wasn't bad, but I'm not gonna rush out to read more Giardina, y'know?By the way, anyone reading this review who is interested in WWII lit, I do remember reading Philip Hallie's "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed" a decade ago, and y'know, I might pick that one up again.

  • Joni
    2019-03-29 18:03

    I learned of how much anti-semitism we Americans had during and after WW2...I first learned of the boat of German Jews we refused to let dock in the US, and instead sent the whole shipload back to Germany, where most all of the 300? people aboard died in concentration camps anyway.Presbyterian minister Dietrich Bonhoeffer studies in England, Spain, and eventually New York. He returned to Germany with the Church's responsibility to participate in social and political debate. These ideals, unfortunately, were hardly compatible with the rise of Nazism in the Germany of the '30s and '40s. Bonnhoeffer, true to his beliefs, spoke out against the Nazi regime, and participated in Germany's small Protestant resistance. He was eventually arrested for helping Jews escape to Switzerland and was hanged in the concentration camp in Flossenberg in the waning days of the war. Book is semi-biographical.

  • Donna Herrick
    2019-04-09 23:18

    WOW! What a story. Bonhoeffer stood against the Nazis. I often criticise the Germans for their acquiesence to the Nazis. But this book shows us that there were Germans who actively opposed the Nazis. Those people were, locked up, beaten or shunned. So, what do we learn about how a population can keep a person such as Hitler from taking power?Maybe we learn that God has invested us with freedom and it is our task to use that freedom responsibly. Bonhoeffer wrestled with what action he should take to stop the Nazis from their heinous programs against the Jews and their neighbors.Bonhoeffer was eventually killed by the Nazis. Does Bonhoeffer offer us any lessons in how to stand up to tyranny as we takee lessons from Gandhi in nonviolence?

  • Kelly
    2019-04-03 16:15

    Denise Giardina introduces the reader to Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He is introduced as a common citizen but, becomes a German hero of the Second World War. The story is riveting. Everything is so easily introduced to the reader that, when the reality of the German situation in WWII comes to light, it seems like a terrible misunderstanding. Giardina is so easy with her prose, so genuine that I sometimes ignored the underlying reality until, like Bonhoeffer, it was too late. I researched Bonhoeffer after reading Saints and Villians and, this man - Bonhoeffer - transends courage. A brilliant book.

  • Kitty b shonda
    2019-04-05 16:20

    Everyone's comments help with the very reason I am struggling with this is a novel based on fact. Why write about the girl friend if she never existed? B/c this was not just some friend. They were intimate and Dietrich couldn't decide whether he wanted to spend his entire life with her! All this is possible, but why add that to relationship mix if there is no ounce of truth! I wanted to read a book about how Hitler got to be popular with the German people & how Germany got to the point it did in exterminating the Jews. Dietrich was never impressed with Hitler and this got him hanged. Pride, it is a dangerous sin.

  • Christine Luong
    2019-04-15 23:25

    I could not put this book down. It's historical fiction, so I'm sure some of what Giardina writes about is sensationalized for the reader, but the atrocities of war and the Nazi regime are just astonishing. It was interesting to read about the environment in Germany after World War I which allowed the rise of someone as evil as Hitler. Reading about all the pain and suffering was hard, but getting to learn about Dietrich Bonhoeffer made it more compelling. His struggle with right and wrong, theology and faith versus patriotism really gave the book a backbone. It also gave the plot to assassinate Hitler more meat than a silly Tom Cruise movie.

  • Colin
    2019-03-28 19:12

    Denise Giardina has offered an imaginative but well-researched take on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Saints and Villains is a novel that goes into Bonhoeffer's thoughts, struggles, and experiences, starting with childhood, including his time in the seminary in New York. His interactions with T.S. Eliot and George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, are fascinating -- wish I could have eavesdropped on those conversations. I cheated here: I listened to it on audio. But this is historical fiction at its best. I discovered it when looking through Image journal's list of 100 essential books.

  • Judy
    2019-03-24 17:22

    I've wanted to read this for a long time. Even though it's fiction, I am interested in stories about courage in the face of danger. Dietrich Bonhaeffer modeled an admirable reaction to the Nazis. It took awhile,but i finished this book. Maybe knowing how it would end slowed me down. He made some hard choices. I liked the characters, some real,some not, but I now feel the need to read a non fictional account of Bonhaeffer's life. It cannot be soon, however, because this was a long book, and I need a break from such a dark situation!

  • Mary Helene
    2019-04-10 16:12

    Is it fiction? Is it biography? it's both. A fictionalized history of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor in Germany during WWII, committed to nonviolence and yet hung for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. I have read Bonhoeffer's texts and seen movies: nothing was as vivid as this book. It was tremendously stimulating to be asking myself constantly - is this real? is this true? is this fact? what's the difference?

  • Ann
    2019-04-05 16:05

    A gripping novel about the life of German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the '60s I read some Bonhoeffer ...was impressed with some of his ideas. But the novel (and there is apparently a fictionalized romance) gave me a more complete picture of the person. Is it necessary to fictionalize such a person? I'm not sure - and think that bothered some of my friends who read it. At the same time, it made Bonhoeffer's ideas and work more interesting.

  • Thomas
    2019-03-20 23:26

    I will always love this book because it's the one that brought my wife, a Lutheran pastor, and I together. The first time we met we were out for dinner with mutual friends and I mentioned this novel I was reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not knowing what a big deal Bonhoeffer was in Lutheran circles. I offered to meet her for coffee and loan her the book, a ruse that eventually worked. While I also love the novel for the story it tells, I'm grateful for other reasons!

  • Sara
    2019-03-26 18:58

    Paints a full, fascinating (and fictionalized) picture of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Somehow I didn't find it as compelling as I had hoped; maybe my expectations were too high? Or maybe the fictionalization is what didn't quite work for me, as I found myself occasionally distracted by wondering which people and details were factual. Though that's not a fault of the book, but of my reading preferences.

  • Rachel
    2019-03-30 21:02

    This book, too, is about the murders of hundreds of men by Union Carbide in West Virginia in the 1930s. It combines that historical narrative with another, fictionalized narrative about the real-life theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In the novel, Bonhoeffer travels to West Virginia (he is in the US to attend Union Seminary) and witnesses the tunnel diggers' deaths. Then he returns to Germany and must come to terms with the murder of Jews in the Holocaust.