A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany
Author: Sigrid MacRae
Author website: none
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Kayt
Sigrid MacRae never knew her father, until a trove of letters revealed not only him, but also the singular story of her parents’ intercontinental love affair. While visiting Paris in 1927, her American mother, Aimée, raised in a wealthy Connecticut family, falls in love with a charming, sophisticated Baltic German baron, a penniless exile of the Russian revolution. They marry. But the harsh reality of post-World War I Germany is inescapable: a bleak economy and the rise of Hitler quash Heinrich’s diplomatic ambitions, and their struggling family farm north of Berlin drains Aimée’s modest fortune. In 1941, Heinrich volunteers for the Russian front and is killed by a sniper. Widowed, living in a country soon at war with her own, Aimée must fend for herself. With home and family in jeopardy, she and her six young children flee the advancing
Russian army in an epic journey, back to the country she thought she’d left behind.
A World Elsewhere is a stirring narrative of two hostages to history and a mother’s courageous fight to save her family.
A World Elsewhere: An American Woman in Wartime Germany is a wonderful testament to the love between a wealthy American and a royal, yet penniless Russian born Baltic German. Two more unlike people finding love is rare, keeping it going through all the trials they went through is amazing. Author Sigrid MacRae writes about her parents with everything laid open for the reader to see. The good, the bad, the unbelievable, the tragic, all is there for us to see. Sigrid was given a beautiful box when her mother, Aimee was moving to Arizona. She could not bear to open the locked box as it was filled with her parents’ letters. When she did, she was driven to find out and write their story.
Aimee is a wealthy American who has not actually had an easy life. However she writes later as she struggles “I’ve never fought for anything. Life picked me out to spoil. I sometimes wonder is she isn’t playing with me and will come with the reckoning before long.” And oh how the reckoning came. She traveled to Europe as many wealthy young women did at the time and found the love of her life. As she fell more and more in love she found herself pregnant. At the time she was prepared to stay in America and not burden her philosophical and political love Baron Heinrich Alexis Nikolai von Hoyningen-Huene. After his begging she returned to Germany and began her new life. At times I did not like Heinrich, but her love for him overrode that feeling.
Author Sigrid MacRae must have done extensive research to fill in the gaps of her parents letters. Amazing research! I was so enthralled with the look inside the general public of Germany during this horrible war, WWII. My mother lived through it in Germany and also had a dynamic mother that kept their family together. Most books written about the time only give the reader one view of things. This is a fascinating look at not just Heinrich’s service in the German military, but also the day to day life of the citizens in the midst of a war on not only the German side and French and Russian and in between. So many people have been taught that the Germans were happy to follow Hitler’s wild rampage, but this allows us to see this is not true. I was lucky enough to have my mother’s stories to learn and this book just brought what she had to go through to light in a way I could visualize and understand even more. For that alone I would have given this book 5 stars.
As the reader is drawn through this long and winding road the author intersperses the letters her parents wrote to each to each and friends. We get to see what made Heinrich who he was, what made Aimee who she became, all before they even met. As the couple get to know each other, their history is played out on the page in descriptive and exacting writing. Through failed attempts at jobs for Heinrich, worries of his family accepting her, Aimee’s money getting them through it all, this couple get to a good place in life. Then all the grumblings of war erupt. Bad luck seems to hit Aimee at every turn in her life, however even with that, somehow some way, she finds her way. She seems to land on her feet, always. Even as her world is crumbling. The things she has to go through, her home being behind Russian lines, the house she moves to being a mess, once repaired the walls filled with refugees, the dangerous journey to escape the advance of the Russian front, through all of it she seems to be one step ahead of tragedy.
I cannot believe how much research author Sigrid MacRae had to do to fill in the spaces left from her parents’ letters. It is truly dizzying. I cannot thank her enough though for writing this book. I am finally able to understand some of what my mother and her family faced during the same time. In this book, the author shows a side of WWII and Germany that is rarely shown. She gives us a view of the citizens’ struggles and their attitude as the war raged on. The fact that there were some that never believed in the war machine. And even as she gave us that side that is not so evident, she also gave us a wonderful tale of love, strength, heartache, determination and resolve. A World Elsewhere is so encompassing it is really hard to put into words. I would recommend that if you do not care for detailed history, do not read this. It will be your loss though. I am so thankful I was given the chance to read this masterful book.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest *