Cover Image: HEIMAT


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Member Reviews

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

In 1929, Matthias Schmidt left his heimat (homeland) of Neisse, Germany, bound for the U.S.  Matt dreams of being a baker, continuing his family’s tradition.  Matt’s brother will take over the family bakery, and their small town cannot support another bakery.  Aboard the Bremen ocean liner, Matt and three acquaintances will form a lifelong bond.  Josef also dreams of becoming a watchmaker, but there is little opportunity for him to open his own store.  Feliks’ family has a farm which will be divided in half for his two older brothers, as it cannot be divided in three and remain economically viable.  Edo, the only Jewish man, will continue his family’s tradition of tailoring.

The story is told in translations of letters, as well as narrative to complete the story.  We cross the ocean with them, sharing their innermost thoughts.  Once in the U.S. each faces hardships and postponement of their dreams.  Their lives are followed through the depression, and we share their hopes and dreams for themselves as well as their growing families.  World War II begins, and each man must deal with the reality of their heimat being at war with the country they have chosen to live in.

I enjoyed the personal insight and the narrative of the individuals’ lives.  At times I thought there was too much historical data, but nonetheless it was interesting.
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521 pages

5 stars

Four young men leave their heimat (villages or homes), in Germany in 1929 for various reasons. They sail on the great ship Bremen on her maiden voyage in third class steerage. Mathias, a baker, Josef, a watchmaker, Edo a Jewish man and Feliks a Polish farmer strike up a friendship that will last their entire lives. On the same ship will be Willy Ernst, a bully from the same heimat and Peter Rust, an American professor at a Pennsylvania University. 

When Willy Ernst shoves Peter Rust on to the tracks at the train station, the four young men rescue him. This incident ties them together for a lifetime. 

What follows is a drama of the struggle of being an immigrant in a strange land where one does not know the language and faces distrust and discrimination. We also experience friendship, prohibition, the depression, intrigue, war, heartache and triumph. The book also cites letters from home. It shows the rise and fall of Hitler and his terrible policies and his extreme racism.  and the hopes of the average citizens. The letters outline post-war Germany and the terrible cost to the average citizen of Hitler’s megalomania. It includes the terrible building of the Wall between West and East Germany and its subsequent triumphant removal. 

This book is very well written and plotted. It is laid out linearly from 1929 to the 1960’s plus. It closely follows these families, their hopes and dreams and disappointments. We come to intimately know the characters involved. We are actually in the room with them witnessing their actions and hearing their words. I truly loved the novel. I certainly hope Mr. Marzell decides to keep writing. 

I want to thank NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for forwarding to me a copy of this engaging book for me to read, enjoy and review. The opinions expressed here are solely my own.
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This was a really good read that was well written with a compelling storyline and well developed characters that I really took too. The plot had obviously been well researched but was still engaging to the reader. It is a herat-wrenching read at times, but one that is definitely worth reading.
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