Reviewed by F.T. Donereau for Rebecca’s Reads (8/13)
Pamela Atherstone's "...Like Footprints in the Wind: A Generation Lost," is certainly a Historical novel in every sense of the word. I do believe though, that it brings much more to the table than is normally associated with that particular genre. You have a sweeping tale of family and tribulations and love and faith. You have a place and time that evokes distance from modern life. All of this is the normal thing for such a work but somehow the author brings it to us in a way that makes us able to feel the world inhabited by the Jahnle family and those around them, as if it were actually us, or loved ones of our own. The story comes alive fully and enables us to live it along with the characters. This is rare in Historical undertakings. And welcome.
As the book opens Johannes Jahnle is a farmer about to harvest his crops. The yield looks promising and he is a contented man. The Russian world he lives in is his as much as anyone’s. He loves his wife and children and they are happy in their lives. Simply because they are of German descent though, they are in trouble. I had never heard of the Purge of the Kulaks prior to the reading of this fine novel. Based on real stories, the tale that unfolds is an astonishing, gut wrenching one. The family is torn from their land and all they know by Russian soldiers. They are forced to endure a harrowing journey that leads them to the isolating deprivation that is the labor camps on the coast of the White Sea, in Siberia. Getting there is a fraught existence. The world they arrive into ends up being an ice brick scratched out of some devil's frozen hell. Miss Atherstone carves these things to life in such a way as to make them as compellingly real as any moment that might have been truly experienced by the reader, employing the kind of writing that makes great fiction, great story telling. The author does not rely on flowery prose to evoke her worlds. Clean hard lines are used to draw the pictures between the covers of "…Like Footprints In The Wind." This is as it should be.
The story, at times, is brutal. The family faces trials that seem and probably were designed to tear them down to nothing. Sorrows within are immense. There is great cruelty, deprivation, and even death. If the words used were not cut out of stone, a false prettiness might have covered things, which would have only taken away from what is being laid down here. Johannes Jahnle is a good man. He is wise and blessed with an inner strength his family would have been hard pressed to survive without. There is that kind of strength in his wife, Katerina, as well. It was lifting to find a woman protagonist who did not crumble and fade under enormous pressures. I confess though that I think my favorite of the characters may be the Jahnle's daughter, Anya. She is a spirit of high order and love becomes her. The family is bolstered by their faith. It is the thing, I think, that really brings them through. It is tested and finally clung to. That, as well, is refreshing.
Really I find this book an important work; it brings forth an historical happening, a tragic piece of history the world ought to know better. Miss Atherstone is a master story teller. The goodness that flows through the horror wrought is a dynamic any age needs more of. The Jahnle's are a people I would love to know. Their faith is a special thing. It all might have been less in the hands of someone not as capable as Pamela Atherstone. She should find great success with this saga. Trust me when I say, you will gain knowledge and feel things deeply simply by opening the pages and falling into them
"I just finished reading your book. Let me say just one thing: AMAZING. I read a LOT. Often, if I'm not hooked within the first couple of chapters, I'll put it down and pick it up later. It took me over a year to read "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." I started reading your book yesterday and the only reason I put it down was to do family things. I was hooked within the first chapter. The story was so intriguing and well-paced. Impeccably written and absolutely amazing. I am recommending this book to basically everyone I know. :)" Stacy Roman
The Novel LadyTop Contributor: Pets
5.0 out of 5 starsBeautifully Written!
March 12, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
I don't even know where to begin with writing this review of ...Like Footprints in the Wind by Pamela Atherstone. It was absolutely AMAZING! This novel has not had the coverage it deserves! With the number of books I read (which is A LOT of books)... many of which are on the New York Times Best Seller List... all I can say is that this book rates right up there with some of the BEST I have read!
Although this is a work of fiction, it reads like non-fiction. It is so chocked full of historical information, but written so beautifully and with so much description and so much heart that you get pulled right into the story, feeling every heartbreak and moment of fear and anxiety and heartfelt warmth and love. Wow! I cannot say enough about this book! I loved it!
We have all heard about the Nazi concentration camps and the tormented lives of the Jewish population in Germany, but very few of us have heard of the Purge of the Kulaks in Russia, where under Stalin's rule, hundreds of thousands of Russian-born farmers whose families had emigrated from Germany were removed from their property and taken to labor camps in Siberia.
This story follows the lives of the Jahlne family as they are forced to leave their farm to travel by horse and wagon with other German families only to later be transferred to cattle cars on a train. Here, they are subjected to overcrowded conditions, starvation and brutal interrogations by the NKVD. Upon reaching their destination of the town of Onega in western Siberia, the family is separated with Johannes taken with the other men to one labor camp and his wife, Katerina, and two oldest daughters, Magdalena and Karolina, being taken to another labor camp. Their youngest children are left to fend for themselves, with only Anya being "adopted" by an elderly woman.
Pamela Atherstone writes with so much emotion and detail that I found myself not only reaching for a tissue, but actually sobbing!
This story isn't just about the devastation these German families endured. It is also a story about the strength they had in their love of family and their faith in God.
Beautifully written by an author I plan to watch in the future.
Disclosure: A complimentary copy was provided by the author. Although a review was not required, I was compelled to do so. All thoughts, opinions and ratings are my own.
"Pam Atherstone proves herself to be an exceedingly gifted writer. Despite the story's chilly setting, Russia, this book is more than a story about "a generation lost." It is an absorbing tale of heartbreaks, friendships, family ties, betrayals, forgiveness and love. The reader is transported to another time and place. The characters inhabit your daily life and thus finishing this saga, is like losing contact with cherished family members and friends. For every ending, there is also a new beginning. Thanks to Mrs. Atherstone's efforts, this novel is now about a "generation found." .............I cannot wait to read her sequel. " Candy Mathews
"One of the best historical novels I've ever experienced. The passion the author has for this award-winning masterpiece is palpable, and it shines through every detail woven throughout this-- a tremendously powerful book that absolutely everyone should read." ~Kyle Magnus, TopShelf Review
"I couldn't put it down, but didn't want it to end!" May 11, 2013
By Mike Salley
This book captivated me after the first few chapters. I grew to love the characters, their struggles, perseverance and faith. I hadn't ever heard about what happened and it was great to read about it, remember this generation and discover new parts of the world. I felt like I was there. It inspired me to take more action and do what I can to help others. Thank you for taking the time to research and write."