Things We Didn’t Say by Amy Lynn Green is an epistolary novel set in the time period near the end of the second world war. It covers the story of Johanna, her friends, and the tiny town of Ironside that has to deal with a building full of prisoners of wars (POWs).
My Review of Things We Didn’t Say
Let me start this review by saying that this book written entirely in letters, newspaper articles, written interviews, and transcripts of conversations. The reader does not have any interaction with the characters except through what they write, if and when they write. Or, you may experience someone’s opinion of them if they wrote it down.
On some levels, the format made the Things We Didn’t Say difficult to read. It felt as if I was jumping from one person’s head to another and it was a bit hard to keep up with who was saying what. It was also a bit disorienting because the minute I got into the character’s voice I was in some other person’s head.
But then, I began to feel a real admiration for this new-to-me author. It takes a lot of skill to create a mishmash of literary pieces written in different voices from different viewpoints and have each voice remain distinct. I would still have enjoyed being in the middle of the action instead of being told about it after the fact in a letter it or newspaper article but I imagine this is how Charles Donohue Jr. felt ( no, I’m not going to tell you who that is. If you wanna know, go read the book).
The Characters in Things We Didn’t Say
Because of its epistolary nature, there weren’t a lot of character descriptions or munch of the usual techniques used to introduce characters to the reader.
Yeat, after a while, some of the characters became real to me and I could identify their voice even without seeing the tags identifying the letter writer.
We met Johanna who was almost completely focused on her language studies and the pursuit of her dream almost to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. Her friendship with Peter mellowed her out and caused her to look at people with a bit more leniency and kindness.
Because of his friendship, she blossomed into a woman who was able to see beyond a person’s nationality and what they had done in the past. She was able to see herself more clearly and acknowledge the wrongs she had done and seek to make restitution.
In the beginning, Peter was a teacher of languages, forced to fight battles against racism and prejudice to make his mark in the world. When he saw the world through Jo’s eyes, he realized that he had also been prejudiced and racist against others.
There were several minor characters like Annika, Christopher, Cornelia, Stephan, and Brady who showed various facets of humanity. They exhibited the best things about us and the worst.
Themes in Things We Didn’t Say
Things We Didn’t Say is a commentary on humanity–how we allow our fears to either drive us to take risks to better the world we live in or cause is to lash out in hate at each other. It’s a reminder that we can choose to treat even those we perceive as enemies as neighbors and see their humanity even when they have done inhumane things.
It’s a reminder that God is with us in the silence and He will make a way when there seems to be no way.
For a while, Jo struggled to forgive God for what she considered His betrayal and His silence. She would learn that God is always with us, though we may not hear His voice. I received an advanced reader’s copy from the publishers through NetGalley; a positive review was not required. Get your copy today.
About Things We Didn’t Say
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.
About Amy Lynn Green
Amy Lynn Greenis a publicist by day and a freelance writer on nights and weekends. She was the 2014 winner of the Family Fiction short story contest, and her articles have been featured in Crosswalk, Focus on the Family magazines, and other faith-based publications over the past 10 years. This is her first novel.
Learn more at www.amygreenbooks.com.
You may also like: