Hope at Dawn by Stacy Henrie
Release Date - June 24, 2014
Grand Central Publishing
Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth
During WWI, some states set forth laws banning the use of the German language or teaching German in schools. That's the premise in Hope at Dawn. Anti-German sentiments run strong in Iowa, and it's those sentiments that land Livy Campbell a teaching job in a small community not too far from her parents' farm in Hilden. When the current teacher is fired and jailed for teaching German to her German-American students, Livy takes over and is unaware how untrusted she will be with the area families. Her only saving grace is the friendship of Friedrick Wagner, a German-American man who is the older brother to a couple of her students.
Friedrick is in a tough spot. His father is dying, his step-mother is doing all she can to care for him, and Friedrick had to give up college to return to the family farm to keep things running. As his feelings for Livy develop, he finds himself torn. Both he and Livy deal with suspicions from both sides, but can they turn their backs on their developing feelings?
Human nature never fails to sadden me. History classes in my generation glossed over any of the cruelty we dished upon our own citizens. It wasn't until my adult years that I learned of the internment camps set up for Japanese Americans in WWII. Now, I'm learning that we were just as horrible to German-Americans in WWI. I guess it isn't surprising that we did treat people of Middle Eastern descent so horribly after 9/11, and in many areas, some people still are suspicious of anyone who looks Middle Eastern. It's just really sad that we look at race first.
In Hope at Dawn, both characters are memorable and likable. Friedrick is doing all he can to keep his family farm going and care for his siblings and parents. Having to prove his patriotism by purchasing war bonds, when he has no money left, and ensure no one in his family reverts to the German language becomes a huge part of his life. It was maddening to watch him struggle so unfairly. Livy has her own issues. Two of her brothers are overseas fighting against the Germans, so she understands the fear and suspicion being cast on the German-Americans, yet she doesn't always agree. As she spends more time with Friedrick, you get to see her character grow.
By the end, I was thrilled I'd chosen Hope at Dawn as my beach read for the first part of my week in Maine. It was gripping, romantic, and definitely eye-opening.