The Good at Heart: A Novel
By Ursula Werner
Simon & Schuster
It’s not often that those of us living seventy-plus years after the end of World War II are given the opportunity to experience the reality of those citizens who lived through the war in Germany. Edith and Oskar Eberhardt, Oskar himself a member of Hitler’s cabinet, relocated their family, including their daughter and her family, to a small town near the Swiss border, leaving the dangers of Berlin behind. Life here is idyllic, with few reminders that their homeland is engaged in what history regards as the most heinous period of modern recall.
At times it’s easy to forget that the men in the Eberhardt household are Nazis. The female members of the family are accustomed to their soldier spouses’ long absences, and the children’s days are easily spent exploring the farms and woodlands nearby.
The sanctity of the Eberhardt’s humble home is shattered when Hitler himself comes to meet the family he has heard so much about from Oskar. Within a matter of hours the Eberhardts’ world is shattered, pieces thrown to the wind and never retrieved. The War may be coming to an end, but for Edith, her daughter Marina and Marina’s daughters, life as they know it has ended as well, and a new chapter must begin.
The Good at Heart is based on the diaries and actual lives of author Ursula Werner’s great-grandparents, whom the author fictionally represents as Edith and Oskar Eberhardt. Although the story spans just three days, Werner effectively uses the recollections of Edith and Marina to thoughtfully define the characters and their actions. The bravery of several key characters is awe inspiring and nerve wracking in turn, and the historical context lends even more depth and credibility to their actions. The Good at Heart is truly compelling, a heart stopping and gut-wrenching story of immeasurable bravery, hope . . . and love.
Joyce Greenfield, ReaderToReader.com