Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin-Graydon House Books for providing me an eARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review!
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: autism, nonverbal, war, war crimes, German Occupation, death, murder.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
When I finished Before I Let You Go, I was emotionally wrecked, and I loved it. The same now goes for The Things We Cannot Say. As most of you know, when I get emotional or cry while reading a book, I’m going to recommend the heck out of it… but I’m getting ahead of myself here, so let me share a little about the book before I start gushing.
Alice is a wife and mother of two children- Pascale, a ten-year old and exceptionally intelligent child, and Edison, a seven-year old who lies on the autistic spectrum, and is nonverbal. Alice’s husband, Wade, is a gifted mathematician who is constantly working and researching, leaving Alice to run the household and manage the family’s needs. Often, Alice finds that for as much as her children and husband need her, her own needs are sacrificed. With her husband relatively absent, and a mother who is busy with her own career, Alice has only ever had her Babcia to support her.
Now, Babcia is in her mid-nineties and suffering from a recent stroke. She is left struggling to converse in anything but her native Polish. Attempting to bridge the gap, Alice attempts to communicate using her son’s AAC technology- an app that communicated with representative pictures instead of words, whose labels are robotically translated by the device. When Alice asks Babcia what she can do for her, Babcia gives her befuddling instructions- “Babcia fire Tomasz.” Though confused, Alice knows she will do anything to aid her grandmother’s last wishes- even if it means upsetting the balancing act she’s been performing since her son was born.
In alternating perspectives, we also learn about Alina, the last born daughter of Polish farmers living through the stages of the German Occupation at the start of WWII. Sheltered most of her life in the rural town of Trzbenia, Alina cannot fully comprehend the dire situation of the occupation- but what she does know is that her beloved best friend and fiance, Tomasz, is stuck in Warsaw during the war outbreak. He promised her that he would always return to her, but with Nazis patrolling the area and her farm less than 20 kilometers from the German work camp, she is afraid she will never see him again.
Rimmer weaves this beautiful story of a struggling mom and a young woman in love fighting for their freedom and relationships. It’s absolutely mesmerizing, and I couldn’t look away from my Kindle. The book tackles some heartbreaking subjects such as death, loss, grief, and struggles with special needs children, but Rimmer does so with grace and realistic emotions- nothing sugar coated or melodramatic.
I believed that this could have been any of the WWII survivors stories, and I especially related to Babcia’s story because I too had a Babcia- my Great-Grandma Nellie, who escaped the very early days of the German Occupation from Sulkowice, Poland in 1937. She was fourteen when she immigrated to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle, married my Great-Grandfather in 1941, and had three children. As Rimmer wrote (and of course, what made me cry), my family wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her bravery, leaving behind her family and everything she knew. She has since passed away- at the ripe old age of 82- and though she is missed, she is often thought of with a smile.
Not only do I want to send a thank you prayer up to my Great-Grandma, but I also want to thank Rimmer for writing this novel. It touched my heart and it was a joy to read. I highly recommend this book, and I will absolutely be buying my own copy.
Additional Bonus: Character Map
(No intentional spoilers, but best viewed AFTER reading!)
Expected Publication Date: March 19, 2019
TL/DR: The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer is a WWII historical fiction novel told in parallel plot lines. The present timeline follows a woman who must figure out what her Grandmother’s last wishes are without verbal communication. The past timeline follows a young girl who is experiencing firsthand the German occupation.
Read it? Yes, absolutely.
Recommend it? Yes! Suitable for most audiences, though best for mature readers.
Buy it? YES. I think it’s a gorgeous book and it should be on bookshelves- you won’t regret it!
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