The Things We Cannot Say
I generally avoid Nazi-related plots. Having been born at the war’s end to a Jewish family in America, I recall horrified whispers about the atrocities perpetrated in occupied Europe. Thanks to these whispers, the war was deeply embedded in my DNA. I knew more than I wanted to know without having to read books.
I bought THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY solely because a good friend, a fellow Audible devotee, recommended it highly. And she was right. It is excellent. Focusing on the plight of the Polish people as the Nazis took over their country, the story goes back and forth between that of a young Polish girl living through those years, and that of a young American woman whose Polish-born grandmother, suddenly silenced by a stroke, needs to speak, finally, about truths that family does not know.
In an interesting parallel arc, the American mom has a severely-autistic 7-year-old son. As his primary caretaker, she keeps his life strictly regimented. This has taken a huge toll on her marriage.
The boy can only communicate through an iPad app. Turns out, his beloved great-grandmother, our Polish-born stroke victim, learns to communicate through the same app – and what she says leads to revelations for them all.
THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY is only ostensibly about the barbarity of the Nazi invaders. Deeper down, it is about family and loyalty, dedication to a greater cause, and all that we give up and gain for those we love.
And the title? My own family, though so far from Europe, could barely speak about the obscenities committed by Hitler in the name of ensuring racial purity.
Ensuring racial purity. And doesn’t that have painful meaning in today’s political climate?
A recent study found that a fifth – that’s a horrifying 20% – of young Americans either have never heard of the Holocaust or do not know what it entailed. For this reason alone, the spate of World War II books is a good thing.
THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY is a valuable addition.