I recently read two very different books, one after the other, due to how they came in on my holds list.
First, I read A Higher Call: An Incredibly True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos. This non-fiction title grabbed my attention because it’s a true story of two WW II veterans and how their individuals stories combined during a brief moment – and affected the rest of their lives. Ever since I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, I’ve looked for these types of stories.
This story focuses on the main characters' individual upbringings, their air combat training, some of their combat experiences, even their political viewpoints. For a brief moment over the skies, on December 21, 1943; US 2nd Lieutenant Charlie Brown (in a highly damaged B-17) is escorted to “safety” by German 2nd Lieutenant Franz Stigler, flying a Messerschmitt fighter. Why did this happen? Charlie couldn’t believe it… Many years after the war ends, Franz begins to ask WWII survivors if they have ever heard of the damaged B-17 and did anyone survive the journey over the English Channel? Eventually, these 2 war heroes meet and Charlie is able to thank Franz for saving his life (and therefore, that of his children!).
Next, I read Jodi Picoult’s newest title The Storyteller. This is also a story with connections to World War II. However, this story deals with the horror of the concentration camps. We hear from an unknown story narrator (who, we find out later is Sage’s grandmother), Josef Weber ( a former SS officer living in New Hampshire), and Sage Singer (the survivor’s granddaughter). Sage and Josef form an unlikely friendship and when Josef reveals his true identity, Sage is forced to acknowledge her grandmother’s past. It is a haunting story, as are most stories dealing with the Holocaust. Jodi Picoult weaves together a spell-binding story and her background research shows in the storylines.
Since I read these titles back-to-back, I couldn’t help but compare the “good” that did happen during WWII with the horror that was happening at the very same time. I also got to compare how one soldier’s view of the Nazi party (Franz Stigler) differed so greatly from Picoult’s fictional character, Josef Weber.