4 out of 4 stars
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Beyond Denial by Juri Vancans is a story of love, betrayal, and of redemption. Or is it? This book made me question every assumption I had not once, but multiple times. Benjamin Steinhardt, originally Manfred Kroner following his departure from WW2 Germany, is on a mission to find his father. His father, SS officer Hans Kroner is guilty of crimes against humanity and Ben has devoted his life to finding him and killing him, not just for his actions under Hitler, but for killing his mother, a Jew. After searching the globe for many years, straining not only his relationship with his family but his ever resource, Benjamin thinks he's found him in the most unlikely of places. Yet, Ben has his doubts. Who is this man?
That's precisely the question that plagues Ben and the reader for a good portion of the book, and ramps up the tension in the process. At first, Ben really thinks he just might be who he's hunting. Upon closer inspection, he finds evidence that seems to suggest otherwise. Or does it? That same question gives birth to many, many more. This book is written in an engrossing back and forth style that kept me off-balance and completely absorbed in the narrative.
While Ben investigates this mysterious man, he remembers the last time he saw his father. We learn more about what he went through, about his experiences in Werwulf, a real Nazi suicide mission that forced children to fight the invading Allied forces. This, in particular caught my attention because I hadn't heard of it, despite the extensive research I'd done on WW2 Germany in college. While I don't consider myself a historian, I thought I knew more than the average person, but this book kept surprising me. This book is littered with accurate historical facts, including those I knew about, and those I didn't. Readers, no matter their level of knowledge about WW2, will surely benefit.
I read this book at a breakneck pace, and enjoyed every moment. It's deeply engrossing, and while the topic is sobering and disturbing for many, the story itself is just as good as any in a Dan Brown novel. This is a superior story about an essential topic that I truly believe everyone should pick up. Benjamin is a man consumed by hate, and is deeply flawed, yet is completely relatable. If I had gone through half of what he had, hate would blind me too. The characters are deep and complex, and often make the reader wonder; just who is right? No one is who they seem, yet the reader also questions if they just might be exactly what they seem.
This book kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end while the story twisted and turned. In addition, I found no grammatical errors to pull me out of the story. So, I rate Beyond Denial 4 out of 4 stars. I actually read this book on a car trip, much to the annoyance of my family, because I wouldn't engage in any conversation. That's how good this book is, and that's the one thing that's beyond denial.
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