A poignant story about the heartbreaks and anxieties of war; of love and trust, and of second chances.
Come From Away
by Genevieve Graham
Genevieve Graham has made it her purpose to “breathe life back into history one story at a time.” Certainly good news for someone like me who knows next to nothing about Canadian History. Truly, I never knew how close the Germans were to our East Coast until I read this book. “U-boats” or submarines have sank 20 merchant ships and 3 Canadian warships in our waters, particularly in St. Lawrence River and the gulf.
Come From Away is the story of one German sailor whose U-boat sank and was the lone survivor stranded in Canada. Once he realized he was on his own, he set out to hide in the wildnerness – from the Canadian authorities and from his own Navy as well. It was luck that he stumbled upon a camp that was properly stocked that would shelter him from the brutal winter. As a child, he was taught to trap and to hunt – skills that would help him survive as he figures out what he should do with his life: return to Germany to keep fighting for a war whose very ideology was no longer his own? Or start anew in a country who could not be as forgiving to someone like him, a Nazi who’s feared and hated at the same time?
But supplies do dwindle and must be replenished. So it was those days when he was left with no choice but to make the trek into town that he would have encounters with Grace Baker.
Grace has personally known the worries and apprehensions of someone whose loved ones were away fighting in the war. Her father was a former soldier and her three brothers were serving the country. She’s known the heartbreaks as well, so her deep rooted hatred for the Nazi was well founded. Meeting Rudi was a distraction from her worries. But that was before she found out his true identity.
Their love story has a back and forth progression. The attraction was instantaneous that was only tampered when Rudi came out of hiding. Grace was livid to say the least. But her anger was more because she felt betrayed and possibly a little humiliated that she was taken for a fool.
Rudi, for his part, did his best to earn the trust of her family. He had a good upbringing; raised by parents whose ideologies were to think first and foremost, to question, and to be human. That’s why Grace’s anger toward him didn’t really last long. Because Rudi was a good man, but also a soldier who followed orders all his life. The Baker’s were a true blue Canadian. They gave Rudi the benefit of the doubt despite being on the opposite sides of allegiances.
Come from Away is everything I’ve come to admire about Ms. Graham’s novels. The romance, the history, the stories of the human condition when faced with difficult choices. It’s a tender romance between people who triumphed over adverse circumstances. It’s about forgiveness and second chances. Ms. Graham truly has the corner in Canadian Historical Fiction. I’m looking forward to reading more and learning more.