Thursday, August 18, 2016

Book Review: When We Meet Again by Kristin Harmel

Pages: 365
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Gallery Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Emily Emerson is used to being alone; her dad ran out on the family when she was a just a kid, her mom died when she was seventeen, and her beloved grandmother has just passed away as well. But when she’s laid off from her reporting job, she finds herself completely at sea…until the day she receives a beautiful, haunting painting of a young woman standing at the edge of a sugarcane field under a violet sky. That woman is recognizable as her grandmother—and the painting arrived with no identification other than a handwritten note saying, “He always loved her.”  Emily is hungry for roots and family, so she begins to dig. And as she does, she uncovers a fascinating era in American history. Her trail leads her to the POW internment camps of Florida, where German prisoners worked for American farmers...and sometimes fell in love with American women. But how does this all connect to the painting? The answer to that question will take Emily on a road that leads from the sweltering Everglades to Munich, Germany and back to the Atlanta art scene before she’s done.  Along the way, she finds herself tempted to tear down her carefully tended walls at last; she’s seeing another side of her father, and a new angle on her painful family history. But she still has secrets, ones she’s been keeping locked inside for years. Will this journey bring her the strength to confront them at last?"

Emily Emerson has some baggage. Her dad left her and her mother when she was just a little girl and then her mother died when she was seventeen years old.  She always thought her father would step in and take over, but that never happened. Her grandmother took care of her and recently, she has passed away.  On top of it, she lost an important job.  So, things are looking pretty grim for Emily, that is until a mysterious package arrives at her house from Germany.  Emily comes to realize it is a painting of her grandmother and the note says, "Your grandfather never stopped loving her."  Emily's grandmother never really talked about her husband, so this confuses Emily and she begrudgingly reaches out to her father.  Emily's father is pleased by this as he has been trying to make amends for quite some time.  As Emily searches for answers, she learns many family secrets and even repairs things with her father.  Kristin Harmel's When We Meet Again is a compelling family saga that has fans of historical fiction will enjoy.

Emily has built up walls to keep out the pain and protect her in When We Meet Again. When looking at her past, you can see why she acts the way she does, but slowly through studying her family's history, the walls come down. As they do, I enjoyed Emily more and more.  I liked her connection with her grandmother and the idea of someone researching and trying to figure out the truth about their family. Personally, I love researching family history, so this aspect of the book was right up my alley.

Hamel alternated each chapter with Emily's point of view and then jumps back into the past, so we can slowly figure out what Emily's grandmother is hiding.  I liked how she linked the generations and along with Emily, we slowly learn the truth as well.

I love historical fiction, because I always end up taking something away from it, something I wasn't aware of that happened in history.  That is the case in When We Meet Again as well. I had no idea there were German prisoners of war living in the US and working at internment camps during WWII.  This is the kind of stuff that they either gloss over in history class or straight up don't mention.  I also really enjoyed the setting of Orlando and Hamel's vivid details, especially when she flashed back to Orlando in the past.

If you enjoy family sagas that span generations, you should definitely check out When We Meet Again. It's my kind of historical beach read.


  1. I love discovering hidden histories as well. So this one is right up my alley! I especially loved the secrets this book promises to uncover. Great review, Christina! Yet another to add to my ever-growing pile.

    1. Thanks, Joy! I always love learning new things from historical fiction as well. Thanks for visiting!

  2. Fantastic review Christina! I love historical fiction and really like learning while I read for fun too. I was aware of German POWs because of a book I read when I was young called Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene.

    I've got this book checked out from my library and I look forward to reading it. I like the idea of a generational family story and secrets. Thanks for your review!

    1. Thanks, Christina! I had no idea about the german POWs, but now that you mention Summer of My German Soldier - it does sound familiar! The things we learn from books. :)

      I hope you enjoy this one. I look forward to your review! Thanks for dropping by!


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