American Shoes: A Refugee's Story. Rosemarie Lengsfeld Turke and Garrett L. Turke. 2022. [February] 352 pages. [Source: Library]
First sentence: I was raised with the belief that life gives us a blank canvas on which to paint our lives.
Premise/plot: American Shoes is based on the author's own memories. Rosemarie (aka Rosel) was born in the United States of America to German parents. A family trip to Germany to visit grandparents--an ailing grandfather--has unintended consequences. This trip happened when Rosel was a young girl--four? five? six?--the family found themselves unable to leave the country. Though not Jewish, the family clearly faces some hardship in Nazi Germany.
This story is not told in a linear manner. The framework of the story is Rosel as a teen girl--15, I believe--leaving Germany on her own. Her parents (and younger sister) having German citizenship and not American citizenship--are unable to get permission to re-enter the United States of America. As an American, Rosel has the ability to leave the country and return to her place of birth. She'll be one of many refugees on their way to the U.S.A.
The "chapters" of the book chronicle her time on the ship AND include her flashbacks (often tied to specific nightmares). Her past is slowly revealed, perhaps unevenly revealed. Much of the book focuses on her mingling with other refugees and her experiences of preparing to begin a new life. Rightly so, she--and just about every single person she is meeting and talking with--are dealing with a LOT of baggage from the war. (PTSD)
My thoughts: The book is based on the author's memories. I'm honestly not sure if this book is categorized as fiction (but based on a true story) or a memoir (straight up nonfiction). She is recounting memories from when she was very young. These are strong impressions she is sharing. It seems completely inappropriate to nitpick literary style or narrative because of the subject matter.
History matters. Voices matter. Her story is worth reading--especially if you read books set during this time period. Not every reader seeks out books about World War II. It can be a sensitive subject, a triggering subject.
© 2022 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews