Author: Roberta Kagan
Publisher: Self published
You are my Sunshine, Book II in the All My Love, Detrick series, takes off from the story of Helga, and the little girl, named Katja, that she gave birth to. But baby Katja is only a minor character in this story. She only serves as a peg upon which Roberta Kagan has hung this book.
The protagonists of this book are Manfred Blau, a German Nazi, and Zofia Weiss, a Polish Jew, whose lives intersect for a while.
The plot follows the life of Manfred Blau, a weak and puny German boy with low self-esteem who joins the Nazi party in an effort to improve his standing and his position. The move helps and Manfred finds himself rising in the estimation of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda.
His renewed confidence gives him the courage to woo and win Christa Henkener, a beautiful and rich classmate of his from school, who he would otherwise never have been able to befriend. Deeply in love, Manfred and Christa marry, even as he begins to move up in the Nazi hierarchy.
Meanwhile, Christa’s father, surgeon Dr Thomas Henkener, hates the Nazis and goes out of his way to help his Jewish doctor colleagues. He is caught and named a traitor. As punishment, Manfred is ordered to shoot his father-in-law.
But the Nazi Party does not forgive easily. Manfred and his family, including baby Katja who they have adopted, move to Treblinka where Manfred is put in charge of the concentration camp there.
There Manfred discovers the cruel side of his personality as he revels in killing and sadistically beating and torturing the Jews under his control. Treblinka is also where he meets the other protagonist of this work, Zofia Weiss, who has had a baby girl, Eidel, out of wedlock.
Christa never recovers from the trauma of seeing her husband shoot her father, and she takes to her bed. Manfred brings Zofia into his home as a house-servant. There she is subject to sexual slavery, apart from looking after the household needs and little Katja.
A rebellion in the camp causes the Nazis to shut down Treblinka. Christa pleads for Zofia’s life and she is allowed to run for her life. In the woods, Zofia meets Isaac and Shlomie, and so begins a tender love story between Zofia and Isaac. It is also a time when they must avoid being captured by the Germans.
The book brings out the sense of loss, as the survivors lose loved ones, their homes and belongings. Many lose their faith, their minds. There seems to be nothing to live for.
Kagan expresses well the desolation that comes upon the Jews as they are forced into overcrowded trains, with only standing space, trains choked with the stench of vomit, urine and feces, and also of death. For it is not until the train reaches the concentration camp that they will be allowed off the train.
This book sees an improvement on the chapter front – only 89, but the tendency to have ultra-small 200-word chapters and the errors in proofreading and spelling persist. Sentences in which characters are thinking also show some seriously awkward construction. This book, like the first in the series, needed a good editor to bring out the best in it.
There is a continuity issue too. The Prologue informs us that Katja was born in 1939, but in 1947, she is still shown to be a small child.
The cover image, presumably baby Katja, is misleading; the book isn't about the child at all.
The ending was the most annoying, and felt like a real cheap trick to get the reader enthused about reading the third book in the series.
Earlier on, we read about Isaac being captured by four German soldiers just before the war ends. Zofia never finds him again.
However, just as she and Katja are set to board the ship Exodus, setting out on its maiden trip to the nation of Israel, someone calls out to Zofia by name.
It’s obviously someone significant, seeing who “her (Zofia’s) breath caught and her lungs tightened,” but we receive no hints as to the identity of this mysterious person. Kagan gyps us by not telling us who the person is, not even whether that person is a male or a female, forget about whether it was Isaac.
I was certainly hoping Zofia would bump into him again (I can’t help it. I have a thing for happy endings.)
We will have to read Part III of the series, The Promised Land, to figure that out.