In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich, from Warsaw to the Rhine if necessary, to reach the British and American lines.
Among the group is 18-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finella, a 20-year-old Scottish prisoner of war who was brought from the stalag to her family's farm as forced labor. And there is a 26-year-old Wehrmacht corporal, who the pair know as Manfred - who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed to escape a train bound for Auschwitz.
As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna's and Callum's love, as well as their friendship with Manfred - assuming any of them even survive.
Perhaps not since The English Patient has a novel so deftly captured both the power and poignancy of romance and the terror and tragedy of war. Skillfully portraying the flesh and blood of history, Chris Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies - while creating, perhaps, a masterpiece that will haunt listeners for generations.
©2008 Chris Bohjalian; (P)2008 Random House, Inc.