Under cover of darkness, Nazis flee hours before American troops arrive near the town of St. Georgen, Austria. A terrible surprise awaits the unsuspecting GIs. When they are told to secure a bridge, they never suspect the bridge leads to not one, but two concentration camps. Three lives will never be the same — the wife of a Nazi S.S. guard, an American soldier, and a concentration camp survivor.
Helene Volkner has mixed feelings when her husband Friedrich leaves; relief that she’d finally be free of the cruel stranger he’d become and sadness that the hero she’d fallen in love with and married - the father of her children - had turned into such a monster. Hearing American troops were going to be taking over the town; she packs a bag and, with her children, returns to her father’s house, although unsure of her welcome. Her father had forbidden her to marry a Nazi.
As soon as she is sure it’s safe, Helene packs a basket of food and heads for the concentration camps. Once inside the gates, she is drawn to concentration camp survivors, Michaela and Lelia, and requests permission to take them home with her so she can nurse them back to health.
American GI Peter Scott, never anticipates finding concentration camps on the other side of the bridge. He will never forget the sight of Nazis surrendering with American salutes or the dead bodies stacked like logs against the walls. The survivors, barely walking skeletons, shock him even more. But, even as the sight sickens him, the clear, blue eyes of Michaela Perl draw him closer, capturing his interest.
Michaela promises her preacher father she’d never leave Lelia. Even when her whole family is killed and she and Lelia are shipped off to concentration camps, Michaela keeps track of the young girl. But now, as Lelia lies close to death, unexpected help comes in the form of a Nazi’s wife. Will Michaela be able to forgive Helene enough to accept the help she offers?
Helene faces many struggles in the days ahead. Will Peter be drawn back to the God of his childhood when he befriends Helene and her family in an effort to get close to Michaela, a devout Christian? Or will all the death and destruction he’s facing pull him further away? And will Helene ever be truly free from her husband?
Tricia Goyer created realistic characters in From Dust and Ashes. The characters were so realistic I was almost tempted to pray for them. I felt for Helene as her husband abandoned her and her children and feared for her life when people thought she might be hiding something as a Nazi wife. Michaela went through a lot of grief having her family murdered for hiding the Jews and she longs to go home to continue the ministry her father was involved in. Peter was a thoughtful, caring man, reaching out to those in need. He goes out of his way to save Helene from those threatening her.
From Dust and Ashes was inspired by real events. American soldiers have testimonials on the front and back covers vouching for the validity of the events. I was rather intimidated by the thickness of the book, but once I picked it up, I fell in love with the well-developed characters, and really cared what happened to them. I hated to see this book end and I highly recommend From Dust and Ashes for a great World War II read. Tricia Goyer did an outstanding job. This is Tricia Goyer’s first book, and it is expertly written. I look forward to reading many more books by this author.