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Book Review: The Pear Tree

The Pear Tree. Karen M Sandrick. Self-Published, August 29, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-book, 355 pages.

Reviewed by Wayne Turmel.

The Pear Tree is a poignant, well-written, and extensively researched look at the events surrounding the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and its lingering, horrible aftershocks on the people of a small village. Sandrick has taken several stories and woven them into a picture of what happens in wartime and the ripples long after the shooting stops.

When the local Nazi commander is assassinated (it’s the same event as the 2017 movie Anthropoid), blame falls on residents of the village of Lidice. Every man in the village is executed, and the women and children either killed, sent to internment camps, or shipped off to Germany for relocation with “true German” families. The village itself is razed to the ground, wiping out its very existence. Families are torn apart, lives forever ruined, and villagers turn on each other in a desperate bid to survive.

The book follows several interwoven stories that give a sense of the paranoia, fear, hopelessness, and small sprigs of hope that emerge from the tragic events and their aftermath. Sandrick does a terrific job of creating a sense of what’s happening in the village of Lidice as fear takes hold, families bicker and betray each other, and people do what they believe is necessary to survive. The effects of propaganda, rampant nationalism, organized brutality, and denial are well played out and very credible. The parallels to today’s world are evident. Particularly chilling is the often-repeated line, “What do we have to worry about? It’s not like we’re Jews.”

Most stories of internment camps and Nazi atrocities are centered on the Holocaust and the experience of Jewish Europeans. Many modern readers will find this tale more chilling because it deals with “regular” Czechs—people who thought themselves safe from the chaos and violence impacting the more obvious, easily targeted, victims.

Sandrick creates wonderful characters and tells a believable story well worth reading. I highly recommend The Pear Treefor readers of historical fiction.


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