Reviewed by Colleen Turner
After miraculously surviving a firing squad at Dachau and being rescued by Colonel Aric von Schmidt, the SS Kommandant of the Auschwitz transit camp of Theresienstadt, Stella Muller isn’t sure if she has been favored by God or forgotten. With her Aryan-like blond hair and blue eyes, she is able to lie and convince the Colonel that her presence at Dachau was a mistake, allowing her the warm food, comfortable home and relative safety that her position as his secretary brings. However, in reality Stella’s real name is Hadassah Benjamin and her new job requires her to do the unthinkable: to hide her Jewish faith and watch as her people are tortured, starved and sent to their deaths at Auschwitz. Her situation becomes even more complicated when she discovers her beloved uncle is within the ghetto walls of Theresienstadt and that he believes she has been chosen by God to save her people. But how can she believe this to be true when she isn’t even sure that God exists anymore?
Doing everything she can to help her people while keeping her real identity hidden, Stella’s life is further complicated when her feelings for the Kommandant, a man with many secrets of his own who seems lenient towards her sympathies for the Jews under his charge, continue to deepen. But as she pushes her help to the point of discovery, Stella will have to decide what she is willing to sacrifice to save the others. She will have to place her faith back in God’s hands and decide whether she can trust this mismatched man she has come to love.
First and foremost, For Such a Time is a remarkably vivid look at the horror and deprivations that those of Jewish faith suffered at the hands of the Nazis during WWII. The reader is within the walls of Theresienstadt in 1944, feeling the abject hunger, fear, humiliation and misery that occurred during this dark time in World history. You cannot help but suffer along with Stella as she struggles with her unwanted position of having to try and save her people while having so little control over how to do so. The sweet and unexpected relationship between Stella and Aric was also an enjoyable addition to not only the complications Stella was facing but to the overall progression of the story. While at first it seemed like just one more complication for Stella to overcome it ended up feeling to me like a little ray of hope in a time when hope was hard to come by.
What were less enjoyable to me were the constant references to religion. While I can completely understand and appreciate the religious struggles that the characters went through it was discussed on nearly every page and started to feel forced and overbearing. It ended up distracting me from the rest of the story when, developed with a more delicate hand, would have otherwise been a powerful component. The reader is also expected to take many leaps of faith themselves within the story as certain situations and developments didn’t seem plausible in the real world. There were a number of times when I had to pause and question whether what I was reading would have really happened given the history. In the end, to enjoy the story, I just had to put my analytical side away and read the story for what it is, a fictional story with historical components. Doing this ended up making it a more enjoyable reading experience.
For Such a Time has some great components and some less enjoyable ones, but as a whole is a heartfelt story of one woman’s struggle to find her faith and live up to the potential given her. It’s wonderfully descriptive and suspenseful with a nice little touch of romance. If you can put the sometimes unrealistic situations and heavy handed religious references to the side I think it will appeal to any lover of WWII history or those looking for a brave and captivating heroine.
Colleen lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband, son, their dog Oliver and their fish Finn. When not working or taking care of her family she has her nose stuck in a book (and, let’s face it, often when she is working or taking care of her family as well). Nothing excites her more than discovering a new author to obsess over or a hidden jewel of a book to worship.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Bethany House Publishers. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.