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The Things We Cannot Say
BY Kelly Rimmer

Graydon House Pub
March 19, 2019/ ISBN 9781525823565
Fiction /

Reviewed by Elise Cooper


The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer delves into how loved ones are never forgotten within the backdrop of WWII. At the drop of a hat, someone's life can change all of sudden, which is what happened to a family after the Nazis occupied Poland.

Based on her own family, Rimmer tells how "my grandparents were Polish Catholic. They never spoke a lot about what happened to them before they immigrated to Australia. We did not know about how they lived. They would not talk about the war and seemed to put it behind them. I saw this picture of my grandparents in the sunshine and so relaxed. This got me thinking about their story, how they had hope and despair. I decided to travel to the village where they lived in Poland with my aunt and sister. I was able to capture what life was like including Auschwitz and Birkenau, which was such a shocking experience. It is impossible to get my head around the violence of that era, the utter brutality, and cruelty."

The story alternates between war-torn Poland in the 1930s and 1940s and modern-day Florida. The main characters are Alina, having to endure the horrific Nazi occupation; Alice, and her grandmother Hanna, who has made a dying wish, find Tomasz, her soul mate in Poland.

Alice is living in Florida, juggling between being the mother of a six-year-old boy, Eddie, who has autism and her ten-year-old daughter, Callie, who is exceptionally gifted. Hanna, her grandmother, at the age ninety-five, has suffered a debilitating stroke where she can no longer speak. These present-day characters are somehow related to the past through Alina.

Enduring the Nazis, Alina is struggling to survive and find hope that she and Tomasz can marry at the war's conclusion. As their situation worsens, hope begins to dwindle, and they wonder, after being separated, will they ever see each other again. This story does not spare the reader all the horrors of the Nazis where they killed in cold blood and used the tools of starvation, rape, and disease

What makes this story stand out are the relationships. It is heartwarming to read how Eddie has connected with his grandmother and the love between them. Alice and Hanna also have a special relationship since she was the one who gave her granddaughter unconditional love and support, while Alice’s mother became a career mom. Alina and Tomasz also had a special love that was deep and touching.

"I wanted to write about autism and how Eddie is a real person who had the people around him benefit from his life. He and Hanna understood and accepted each other. I also wanted to show how technology helped both he and Hanna communicate through an App. I had some experience with not being able to communicate. Just before I left for Poland, I collapsed from a seizure of temporal lobe epilepsy and was not able to speak for half an hour. I realized how frustrating it is and how scary."

This emotional historical novel brings together the present and the past. It encompasses loyalty, love, and devotion.

Reviewed 2019