During Patty Bergen’s twelfth summer, German prisoners arrive in her hometown, to be housed in a nearby prison camp. It’s 1941 and everyone knows about the Nazis. They also know that the Bergen family is Jewish, so the people of Jenkinsville, Arkansas are particularly surprised and horrified when Patty helps an escaped prisoner, Anton, hide in her parents' unused garage apartment.
I loved the fact that this story is the reverse of what happened within Europe, as courageous people hid Jews from the Nazis. Patty is a Jew who helps a young Nazi soldier hide after he escapes from the nearby prison camp. The young Jew, Anton, is an intelligent, educated and kind person with a great sense of humor. Patty has abusive parents who don’t like her, although the reasoning for their dislike is difficult to discern. Her father whips her for the slightest infraction and her mother simply likes to browbeat her into submission and is verbally abusive, constantly comparing Patty to her pretty little sister, Sharon. The only person who is truly kind to Patty is their hired “colored woman”, Ruth. Ruth is loving and wise. Her grandparents are also kind to her, but they dislike her father and, in the long run, are not much help.
I enjoyed Summer of My German Soldier, but was a slightly disappointed. I expected more interaction between Patty and Anton. The end was hopeful and the characters were fairly believable, yet the dialogue sounded a little forced to me. Still, I can't deny the writing was very good and I would read more by this author. The back cover states that Summer of My German Soldier was a National Book Award finalist and an ALA Notable Book.
There were some lovely sentences and bits of wisdom or insight in this book, and I took notes. Unfortunately, I wrote my notes on the heat sheets for kiddo's swim meet, he stuck them in his swim bag where they got soaked by a wet towel and bathing suit, and he claims he threw the papers away. So much for quotes. If I can locate them, however, I'll update this post because I did think there were some things worth sharing.