Title: From Sand and Ash
Author: Amy Harmon
Genre: Historical Fiction
“Here is the difference, Monsignor. Jesus gave himself willingly. He could have saved himself. But he was God. And he chose. Eva is just a girl. She wasn’t given a choice. The Jewish people have been stripped of choice. They have been stripped of liberty. They have been stripped of dignity. And they cannot save themselves.”
It’s easy for someone to sit and judge how they would handle a situation in life– but it’s an entirely different realm to actually experience it and see just how far you will actually go to save yourself and/or the ones you love. WWII was full of horrors that are unimaginable to our generation. Although this book is fiction, the author’s note shares details that many of the characters were based on real people, and many of the events actually happened. Her intent was to write a story that could have happened given the circumstances of the time and place.
From Sand and Ash is a heart-wrenching novel that follows the path of lifetime friends Eva and Angelo. As a child Angelo is left in the care of his aunt and uncle who work for Eva’s father, but more closely resemble family. Eva also lost her mother when she was young to tuberculosis. After already facing so much in their young little lives, Eva and Angelo formed a bond right from the beginning. Eva’s family was Jewish while Angelo’s was Catholic. Due to a bum leg, Angelo’s family had decided to prep him for life as a Catholic priest. Back 100 years ago men had to be able to work hard to provide for a family, and if he couldn’t then the family was bound to suffer.
As Eva and Angelo grow into adulthood, the “romantic” in you will wish they could have been together right from the start. As history would have it though, Angelo chooses the priesthood over marrying Eva. As WWII emerges and the persecution of Jews is rampant, Angelo finds himself in a place of position that he uses to save others rather than protect himself. The ultimate person he is trying to protect? Eva. In order to save her life, Angelo claims her as his sister, and is able to provide false documents for her. This gives her a freedom the other Jews simply do not have. Sadly, it also makes them have to hide their real love for each other.
I will be honest when I say that I was originally doubtful how the relationship could really exist how it did seeing the different faiths and the importance it held in each of their lives. I actually won the book as part of a goodreads giveaway. I have to say that I was surprised. While the love Eva has for Angelo is seen more physically, you can see from Angelo’s mind that Eva is his world just as much as he is hers. At the end of the day he has a sacrificial love for her that he is willing to suffer himself in order to protect her as much as he humanly can. Without spoiling anything, you can see how Angelo’s choice for the priesthood actually protected them both in a time where Europe was a dark place to walk.
Age Appropriateness: WWII was a dark time in history. Having said that, in comparison to what is described in other period novels the book is less graphic. I personally wouldn’t recommend this book for anyone under 13 due to the subject and content. If a child is interested in WWII there are other books that would be more appropriate. Although not explicit, this book is a romance, and there are other books that could be a better fit.