3 out of 4 stars
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At his father’s funeral, Don Jurgens‘s Aunt Mildred pressures him into giving a speech and reciting from notes she gave him to say. In the notes, there was a mention of his father being in a Black Forest Society that raises Don’s curiosity. He never knew that his father was in such a club. After talking to Mildred about this and seeing her odd reaction, Don is more intrigued in finding out more about this society. He remembers his mother showing him a trunk full of memorabilia and pictures before she died, and he goes on the hunt looking for it. Once found, it drastically changes his understanding of his parents. Inside the trunk was not only photos but his mother’s diaries. Frieda and Hugo Jurgens kept a dark secret. One that ties them to the Nazi party and that could still harm Don and his family.
The Trunk by Dale Rollings is a historical fiction with suspense elements. Rollings brings to the forefront how German Americans viewed the World War in the 1940s. St. Louis, MO, where the Jurgens lived, had a large German immigrant population during that time. Wanting to support the country they were in collided with being loyal to the country of their ancestors. Today we have the hindsight to know what cruelty the Nazis unleashed. During the early days of the Third Riech, though, many were swayed by the ideas they presented. In Frieda’s diary, she talks about how it started with a subtle change in the music to more nationalistic songs at the places she and her husband hung out at. It was very intriguing to see how Hitler and his party attempted to manipulate those a thousand miles away.
The characters weren’t easy to warm up to. Frieda and Hugo make some poor choices that most could view morally wrong. Their decisions reflect how living through the Great Depression could affect your judgment. I even questioned if I liked Don and his wife because of the way they dealt with a problem. The author painted the world more in grays than in black and white, and I liked how closer to reality it was. Rollings himself asserts, “I was ambivalent about how I felt about the characters.” No matter if you love them or hate them, the author’s well-developed characters will incite some kind of emotion in you.
I had two issues with this book, though. My biggest problem was with the erotic scenes in Frieda’s diary. Frieda goes into explicit detail about her love life and discusses how she loses her virginity. These parts cheapened the storyline, and it would have been better if the author had omitted them or told them in less detail. There were also tons of grammar and punctuation mistakes in the PDF I received, which was odd since Rollings thanks someone at the end for proofreading the story.
Despite my distaste for the sexual content in this book, Rollings delivered a fast pace and entertaining story. Because of that, I give The Trunk 3 out of 4 stars. Anyone who loves historical and suspense fiction would want to read this book. Besides the erotic content, readers also need to know about the profanity and violence in the book as well.
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