Review: Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green

Posted January 17, 2021 by Sophia Rose in Reviews / 30 Comments

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I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green
Things We Didn't Say

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one-flame


Genres: Historical Romance, Inspirational Romance, Military Romance
Published by Bethany House
Released on November 13, 2020
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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The Delight

Small Town America during WWII becomes a hot bed of unease, intrigue and accusations when a POW camp is placed there and one of their own- a fiery, independent prodigal- returns to work at the camp as a translator.  A debut epistolary novel captivated and I will feel the effects for some time to come.

Review

Johanna Berglund is a brilliant linguistic student at the University of Minnesota with dreams of going to Oxford for further language studies.  She is impulsive, outspoken, and can be abrasive with her abrupt social skills, but no one can doubt her abilities.  This is why her professor is approached by the army and he easily recommends Johanna as does her great Japanese American friend, Peter Ito from over at the Ft. Snelling Language School.  Johanna is being recruited to act as translator at the new POW camp of German prisoners being put up outside her home town for the purpose of the POWs put to work in the fields to replace the young men who went to war leaving farmers in a bad place for food production.  The commander hopes that the fervor against the camp will die down if a home town girl is brought in to act as sensor for the POW mail, liaison with the POW rep, and as translator who can also keep an eye on what the prisoners are saying.  Johanna does agree easily and has her private reasons for never wanting to go back home again.  Too bad her parents, her friends, and even her anonymous scholarship sponsor are all set on her doing this.  In the end, things go very wrong and lives are at stake.

Things We Didn’t Say opens with a startling reason for why the heroine is gathering and reading through all her correspondence.  Though, it’s at the beginning, I’m not going to reveal what is going on so if others choose to read the book they get the full effect like I did.  The reader gleans the story from these various pieces of correspondence- letters, memos, newspaper articles, reports, and notes.

There is a reason this epistolary form is not the most popular writing style for stories.  It is tough for all the usual story elements to shine through to the reader without distraction, detachment, or under-development being issues.  A few writers, however, shine in this format and this one just dazzles.  Johanna is the main character, but her closest friends, Peter and Olive, her parents, and others back home, and the people at the camp are brought to vivid life as is the historical background and the setting.  The big conflict gives an urgency to the story from the opening page and the reader knows to what all that is being written is leading to, but in the meantime, the story leading up to this takes over and the reader is plunged into Johanna’s world.

I’ve read several WWII homefront stories and even a few set in and around internment camps, but this was my first that dealt with a POW camp that was there to work the local farms.  I was fascinated by that part alone, but then this was paired with the linguistics side of the war effort and how Japanese Americans from the American mainland and those from the Hawaiian Islands studied and trained to be used in the Pacific Theater of the war.  The author didn’t pull punches on how it was for those who looked and sounded like the enemy, but were as loyally American as anyone else.

Johanna might be all sorts of prickly, but she had the generous gift to see past that stuff and embrace Peter Ito as dearest friend just as she saw those German prisoners as people and not monsters.  This advocacy gift gets her into trouble really quickly when she begins working at the camp.  So that editorials in the newspapers and whispers in town follow her.

At the beginning, I felt there was something of a mystery about the way Johanna was acting toward the Lutheran preacher and his daughter and I was curious what was behind it.  It seems that the past with this family was at the crux of why she wanted nothing to do with her home.

Johanna was spunky and impulsive and lord did she get up a head of steam, but she’s likeable and even when I wanted to snag her before she could go off half-cocked, I thought she was a game gal.  I also felt her pain and what was holding her back.  I loved seeing her private journey to peace and understanding herself happen along the way.

And, yes, this is an inspirational fiction so forgiveness, understanding, compassion, and relying on God as comfort and strength is woven into Johanna story.  Peter was such a well of wisdom for her and the kind of friend who said the hard things in a gracious way.  Johanna might have been far from God, but she could respect the advice and truths Peter shared particularly since he of all people couldn’t be doubted when he talked of forgiveness and being understanding of others.

As the reader, I could see the train wreck coming for Johanna when she was blithely in ignorance and ignored warnings from others because she thought she knew best.  And, to be fair to her, she was often the only one championing certain people so it was easy to see why she went on instinct and got a few pivotal people very wrong in their motives and actions.  I had no idea how she was going to get out of her tight spot, but loved how it happened- what got her into the mess was also what got her out of it.

All in all, a brilliant, sparkling story full of all the good things including a subtle romance, a journey of the heart, and an intrigue during the WWII years.  Those who enjoy historical fiction, light inspirational fiction, light historical romance, and suspense should give this one a try.

I rec’d this book through Net Galley to read in exchange for an honest review.

Challenges Met

New Release #210
Historical Fiction #133

About the Book
Things We Didn't Say by Amy Lynn GreenTHINGS WE DIDN’T SAY BY AMY LYNN Green

Headstrong Johanna Berglund, a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota, has very definite plans for her future . . . plans that do not include returning to her hometown and the secrets and heartaches she left behind there. But the US Army wants her to work as a translator at a nearby camp for German POWs.

Johanna arrives to find the once-sleepy town exploding with hostility. Most patriotic citizens want nothing to do with German soldiers laboring in their fields, and they’re not afraid to criticize those who work at the camp as well. When Johanna describes the trouble to her friend Peter Ito, a language instructor at a school for military intelligence officers, he encourages her to give the town that rejected her a second chance.

As Johanna interacts with the men of the camp and censors their letters home, she begins to see the prisoners in a more sympathetic light. But advocating for better treatment makes her enemies in the community, especially when charismatic German spokesman Stefan Werner begins to show interest in Johanna and her work. The longer Johanna wages her home-front battle, the more the lines between compassion and treason become blurred–and it’s no longer clear whom she can trust.

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I was born and raised near Sacramento, CA. I have read since I was four years old and developed tastes that run the gamut of literature. I went away to college and have a degree in education, a certificate in family history research, and a certificate in social work. I worked for a non-profit agency with low income families for 20 years which included being responsible for the children’s library and promoting/teaching adult literacy. I have lived in Southeast Michigan for the last 18 years and I am currently a book addicted homemaker with a cat and husband who keep me grounded. Recently, I made it a challenge to review each book that I have read as a favor to author friends who said reviews are important. I have done reviews for Good Reads, Amazon, eBay, and Smashwords, but mostly at Goodreads and Amazon.

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sherry fundin
1 month ago

great review. thanks for sharing and happy reading
sherry @ <a href=”http://www.fundinmental.com/”> fundinmental</a>

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  sherry fundin

Appreciate you stopping by, Sherry! Thanks!

Lover of Romance
1 month ago

What a great review you have here, I just love a spunky yet likable heroine, they can bring such entertaining dialogue to the story.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago

She was definitely a sassy gal. I loved it. Thanks, Renee!

Mary Kirkland
1 month ago

That sounds very unique. I don’t think I’ve read anything like that before.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Mary Kirkland

Yes, that’s what caught my attention to try it. It was cool with it all in letters and memos and being about a POW camp translator.

Anne - Books of My Heart

Historical fiction is tough for me because I want to know the truth. Was there a POW camp in that area? How did they get all the way to the midwest? Anyway, I’m glad it was such a winner for you.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago

Yes, that is the fun part of this one. This particular camp was not real, but there were a handful in the area like it. She also took the license of putting the mail censor right at the camp. There was a nice historical note at the end explaining what was historically true and where she took license.

Melliane
1 month ago

Oh I didn’t know about this one but it looks like you had a great time with it

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Melliane

It was new and a debut author at that so I was glad to stumble across it.

Debbie Haupt
Debbie Haupt
1 month ago

What a fabulous review Sophia Rose. I never thought about how hard it is to write using letters great point and it reminded me of all the wonderful novels I’ve read like it. This is definitely going on my list, my favorite genre and time period. xo

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Debbie Haupt

Yeah, being able to convey character growth, relationships, and good flow to the story is tough, but this author did it and without the format distracting me. Really good. Hope you get the chance, Debbie!

Carole Rae
1 month ago

I like the sounds of this one!

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Carole Rae

It really had a good impact on me. I hope she writes more.

Rachel
1 month ago

Sounds like a moving story. I get so upset thinking about the internment camps set up, people having their rights stripped because they’re a certain nationality with little or no recourse. It makes me sick. What a difficult time in history, although I think the Mexican border camps set up now are pretty terrible too. Glad to hear this story was a hit. Love that cover!

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Rachel

Yeah, it was tough back then. My dad’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles were in an internment camp so I’ve gone to see a few of them just to get a better idea what it was like.

Yes, the cover is a good match for the story. They did a good job. I was very intrigued by this one and hope she writes more.

Lover of Romance
1 month ago

What a lovely review you have of this one here, I am really intrigued. Its been forever since I read a WWII inspirational romance, but definitely sounds so intriguing.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago

Yes, it was an amazing and unique one.

vvb
vvb
1 month ago

Wow, the beginning of your review got me real curious.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  vvb

Glad to tempt you, Velvet It was one that really grabbed my attention.

Carole @ Carole's Random Life in Books

I do love books told in epistolary form. Johanna sounds like a great character. I don’t usually pick up books that would be considered inspirational but maybe I should re-think that. Great review!

Last edited 1 month ago by Carole @ Carole's Random Life in Books
Sophia Rose
1 month ago

I do too. I think having it all told through letters, memos, and newspaper articles etc is intriguing. I forgot I was reading letters when the story really came alive for me.
Yeah, there are some pretty amazing stories in the inspirational fiction genres, but I do get the hesitation if religious elements get you itchy. I don’t mind so long as the story remains the focus.

Maureen @ Maureen's Books

This sounds like a great read. I rarely read WWII books, but I definitely need to put this one on my TBR.
Great review 😉

Sophia Rose
1 month ago

I don’t read them much because they usually have me crying my eyes out, but I thought this one was different enough since it was the homefront and a POW camp. It turned out really good. Thanks, Maureen!

Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer

This sounds really good, Sophia. It’s been a while since I have dabbled in this genre.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago

It was amazing. Yeah, it’s hard to keep up on everything out there.

Lola
1 month ago

This sounds like it was an awesoem historical fiction read and I can see why you enjoyed it :). Sounds like quite the unique set up for the story.

Sophia Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  Lola

Once in a while one comes across a lovely surprise and this was one. I loved the unique setting, the whole story told in letters, and the mysteries going on. It was great, Lola!

vvb
vvb
25 days ago

I like the sound of this one and it got me curious about the mess and how she gets out of it.

Sophia Rose
24 days ago
Reply to  vvb

Yes, that suspense thread had me figuratively gnawing my nails to see how she got out of it, too. 🙂