Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.
As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.
Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.
But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.
Anyone else in a book club IRL? I am and I love it. Once a month we choose a hostess and get together with a great group of ladies and have cocktails and discuss books and life. It’s awesome. With our book club, the hostess gets to pick what we read. Every time I host I agonize over this choice! It’s so much pressure! We’ve had a few hosts pick a dud and I just never want to be that person. LOL. So after a lot of research, polling my book nerd friends and searching on GoodReads, I decided on From Sand and Ash by Amy Harmon.
I read this in one day. I couldn’t put it down. The story of Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco was so rich and full of life! These two grew up together in Italy never realizing that they were different. Eva was Jewish, although her family lapsed while Angelo and his family were devout Catholics. With the innocence of children, they decided early that they were brother and sister and nothing was going to change that. As they got older, their feelings began to change but Angelo had always thought that he was meant to be a priest and while he vowed to always look out for Eva he didn’t believe she was meant for him. He didn’t believe that he could serve his faith and still have Eva. Eventually, he answers his calling by becoming a priest. Unfortunately, at the same time, the world around them began to change. The Fascist Italian government passes laws that make it difficult for Jews to live and do business in Italy. The Nazis are gaining power in other areas of Europe and eventually make their way to Italy.
I remember learning in history about Mussolini and the Fascists but I guess I never really understood the role that that played during WWII when Hitler and the Nazis began persecuting the Jewish people. Ms. Harmon does a service with this book reminding people of the plight of the Italian Jews during this time. I never knew many details of the occupation of Italy by the Germans and the role that the Catholic church played in saving so many lives during this time period.
Angelo uses his connections as a priest to shelter Jewish people including Eva from the Nazis. He wants to put Eva in a bubble but as she sees the things happening around her she knows that she can’t just stand by and watch. She also comes to appreciate the importance of faith and family. She begins to appreciate the tenets of her faith and embrace them. Eva is also frustrated because as the danger grows, it becomes apparent how much she really does love Angelo. It’s heartbreaking to have this push/pull between them. Angelo has always been her rock, but he can’t commit to her the way she needs during this time when everything and everyone around her is falling apart.
This book took real history and made it come alive. The Rosselli and Bianco families seemed so real. Because I was so invested in these people, the events depicted in the book seemed even more tragic and poignant. I loved that some of this was based on real little known historical events. This was fascinating and ended up generating much discussion with my book club. Everyone loved it and highly recommend you read it.