Sand and Ash is by far the best book I’ve read this year. Taking a different view of the German persecution of Jews during World War II, the reader is brought back to Italy in 1943 where we meet Eva Roselli, a Jew, and Angelo Bianco, an American born boy who is sent to live with the Rosellis in Florence. Over the years Eva and Angelo become inseparable until one day, ten years later, they realize that they are in love. But because of a physical handicap it is determined that Angelo would be best served by becoming a priest. Eva’s father, watching with close interest what is happening to Jews on the world stage, lines the pockets of the seminarian abbot who in turn assigns Angelo, now a priest, to a nearby parish. Angelo, in an effort to honor his vows, pushes Eva away from him and for three years they are apart.
In the end, though, Angelo must use his Vatican connections in Rome to hide his beloved Eva from the Germans now occupying Italy. Eva agrees but only if she can help Angelo in his resistance efforts. In the end love will win. Love of Eva? Or Love of God? Or Both? Can Father Angelo live with his choice? Will Eva be discovered by the Germans? Can she survive being sent to a work camp in Germany or will she join her departed family leaving Angelo to wonder if he could have done more?
Sand and Ash is a totally new perspective on World War II for this reader. The story is seamlessly woven through almost non-stop action. Just when you think it’s safe for Eva and Angelo, a vile twist occurs in their lives. The agony of living in fear of discovery, the hope for deliverance, the plight of those who are living in an occupied country, the quiet resistance work of the Catholic Church to save their Jewish brethren, all combine to make a compelling page-turner. Life and death, sacrifice and prayer, hope and despair, all are contained within the pages of this story.
This is one book you won’t want to miss.
Rating: 5 stars