A heartbreaking and confronting book that tore at my heart strings and left me choking back tears! I was amazed at the depth of this story and it's historical setting. I found it to be a real eye opener as to what happened during those horrific years in WWII and the lengths that certain individuals went to to help the Jews of Italy. Beyond this historical setting is the EPIC love story of Angelo and Eva - their forbiddenlove that was unconditional and unwavering. The epilogue brought tears to my eyes and left me with a sense of peace and serenity. I loved reading the author's note at the end, and finding out what inspired Amy Harmon to write this book.
From Sand and Ash is set in Italy, during the horrific time of World War II. The amount of research the author has done for this book is evident with every chapter. A fictional couple in a story based on true events that will have you holding your breath at every turn.
“I would do anything for you, Eva. Anything.” He thought of what Camillo had said about not only blessing lives, but saving Jewish lives, and it gave him the strength to continue. “But I can’t have you and the church. I need the church, Eva. I need the church, and I believe the church needs me.”
I loved the forbidden romance between our two main characters, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco. A Jewish girl and a Catholic boy who become friends as children, when Angelo moves from America to live with Eva's family. Angelo grows up to become a priest, despite his feelings toward Eva and her own for him. Eva and Angelo are two well developed characters, whose spirits shine through with each trial and tribulation encountered. In the beginning I was hooked by the struggle and angst with these two characters. Then I quickly found myself utterly immersed into their world when chaos ensued and life as they knew it started to irrevocably change. With death and danger lurking around every corner, following their every step, doubt sets in, and priorities and commitments may change. Even though I'd call this book a historical romance, the time period it's set in makes it so much more than that.
“The only thing that matters to me, the only thing in this whole world that truly scares me, is something happening to you. Do you know that? I think I could face anything, endure anything, if I knew for sure you were safe and well. I cannot serve the way I need to serve, I can’t be the kind of priest I need to be, and be full of fear. My faith is being drowned by my fear for you.”
Told in third person, Amy Harmon gifts us with a dual POV. I think this helped the story flow more smoothly for me, as I can sometimes struggle with third person when the characters perspectives aren't very clear. The writing carries Amy's signature style, fluently elegant and simply mesmerising. The fear, suspense and sorrow gripped my heart the whole way through this story. The imagery and feelings evoked so intense that I felt as though I was watching it all play out in front of me whilst reading. The events that take place are truly heart breaking to read about, but within the cracks of heartbreak, faith and love find a way to seep in. Amy Harmon has done a wonderful job portraying this. I finished this story feeling both heavy and light hearted at the same time. A powerful, deeply touching and profound love story that walks a dangerous line somewhere between fear and hope.
Set in Italy in WWII, From Sand and Ash tells of the forbiddenlove between a Jewish woman and a priest when the country is occupied by the Germans. They must put their love aside to help the Jews to hide or escape from the Gestapo. It is a story of survival against all odds.
This book completely took me captive. It was a nail-biting, emotional roller-coaster ride, and I found a few times that I had to put the book down to calm my emotions and gather my thoughts. I found some parts confronting, especially as some of the events are factual. However, From Sand and Ash also showed the strength, bravery and faith of others.
I know that an author has succeeded with her writing when I am still thinking about the book days/weeks later and discussing points/characters/events with family and friends
If you love a beautifully written book that has fleshed out, unforgettable characters in a riveting, brutal, emotional story, then you must read this book.
I'm not a proficient writer, and nothing I say here will do justice to what this book made me feel. But the least I can say is that it was soul wrenching, or should I say soul-searching? The quest for God in the midst of desperations and conflicting emotions (as a romance this is a story of forbiddenlove, among other things) was done so beautifully, that it brought me to my tears again and again. And Angelo and Eva is the embodiment of this verse: "... now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
War, brutality, forbiddenlove, and courage, are among some of the many themes coursing through the veins of this tale. At the heart of the story are two childhood friends - Angelo who is encouraged by his family to enter priesthood due to a debilitated leg, and Eva, a young Italian Jewish girl.
The bond between the two has always been extraordinary, but like many lifetime friendships, love takes hold. As Hitler and the Nazi regime infiltrate Italy, the Jewish people begin facing segregation, internment, and death. Father Angelo secretly works for the Vatican to help hide and protect Jewish families and Eva also tries to help the resistance.
With each passing chapter, the stakes increase for the characters and tensions rise. Historical facts are welded seamlessly in the storyline and are never jarring, but always accurate and provides a good historical timeline for the effects that World War II had on Italy.
The passion I experienced for the characters ratcheted up with each new poignant scene. The author does not shy away from showing the suffering of the Jewish people as they were inhumanely loaded into cattle cars and swept away to the concentration camps. And of course there is the enduring love between a priest who will abandon his vows for the woman that he loves in a race to find each other again.
I am especially interested in novels that explore World War II and its impact on the Italian people, and this novel is one of the best I've read in this regard to date! HIghly, highly, highly recommended!