4 out of 4 stars
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"I don't know what you did in the war, Dad. I was always afraid to ask--all of us were--and now it's too late. However, I'm certain the war left deep scars on you--not just physically, but it changed who you once were. And, since you are a part of my history, I need to find out more about you."
After his mother is placed into a care home, Jonas inherits a wooden cigar box containing relics from his parents' past. The box includes some trinkets that trigger memories from his childhood, but when he discovers a 1945 page from his mother's war diary, an undeveloped film canister, and 1939 ciné film, Jonas realizes how little he knows about his parents' history. In the suspenseful historical fiction, My Parents' Darkroom: Developing the Past, by Reinhard Tenberg, Jonas tries to unravel the family secrets surrounding his parents' involvement under the Nazis during the war. In his search for answers and the rest of his mother's missing diary, he falls in love with Bettina, who seems to have her own secrets. Can their love survive the shocking truth?
Not only is the 189-page book well written and flawlessly edited, the author skillfully pairs strong characterization and a suspenseful plot. The page-turner is written in the first-person narrative from the perspective of Jonas, a professor at a London university, who teaches post-war German history. As is often the case with brothers, Jonas and Helmut are polar opposites. Jonas is compelled to find out the truth about the degree of his parents' involvement with the Nazi Party, while Helmut prefers to let sleeping dogs lie. However, both brothers are relatably flawed and believable. When Bettina enters the story, the author reveals layers of her character over the course of the story.
I most liked the suspenseful aspect; Jonas was so driven to find out the truth about his parents that it elevated the plot to a mystery that was hard to put down. Each time a question was answered; another took its place. Why was the page torn from his mother's diary, and where is the rest of it? Who are the people in the photograph with his father? Does Bettina know more than she is letting on?
There honestly isn't anything I disliked about the book. Although I tend to prefer mysteries with tidy endings wrapped in a bow, I found the not-so-wrapped-up ending satisfying, as it prompted the hope of a sequel. I'm pleased to rate the book 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to both fans of historical fiction and suspense lovers. However, I caution sensitive readers regarding references to the Holocaust, although they are not graphic in nature. Due to the subject matter, profanity, and a few sexual scenes, the book is intended for a mature audience.
My Parents' Darkroom
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