• Hardcover: 336 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow (June 2, 2015)
A memorable coming-of-age story and love story, laced with suspense, which explores a hidden side of the home front during World War II, when German POWs were put to work in a Wisconsin farm community . . . with dark and unexpected consequences.
The war has taken a toll on the Christiansen family. With food rationed and money scarce, Charlotte struggles to keep her family well fed. Her teenage daughter, Kate, raises rabbits to earn money for college and dreams of becoming a writer. Her husband, Thomas, struggles to keep the farm going while their son, and most of the other local men, are fighting in Europe.
When their upcoming cherry harvest is threatened, strong-willed Charlotte helps persuade local authorities to allow German war prisoners from a nearby camp to pick the fruit.
But when Thomas befriends one of the prisoners, a teacher named Karl, and invites him to tutor Kate, the implications of Charlotte’s decision become apparent—especially when she finds herself unexpectedly drawn to Karl. So busy are they with the prisoners that Charlotte and Thomas fail to see that Kate is becoming a young woman, with dreams and temptations of her own—including a secret romance with the son of a wealthy, war-profiteering senator. And when their beloved Ben returns home, bitter and injured, bearing an intense hatred of Germans, Charlotte’s secrets threaten to explode their world.
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"Those are killers you're talking about," Mike cut in. "We can't just let 'em loose!" The sheriff cleared his throat. "They're boys, like our boys. Just on the wrong side. "Boys?" Mike turned on the sheriff. "They killed my son!"
This story intrigued me, based on the real Prisoner of War Camps in Door County, Wisconsin; there is plenty of opportunity for conflict both internal and external that is displayed throughout The Cherry Harvest. I was amazed to know that American families with boys fighting overseas really did have German prisoners helping them on their farms, like the Christiansen’s. The internal struggle that some of the characters faced with this fact was intriguing. I was engrossed reading about the experience that an American family faced while WWII was raging. Charlotte faced daily decisions about how to feed her family, Kate worried about paying to go to university, and Thomas worried about how to get gasoline for the tractor. Intense and well developed characters filled the story. Charlotte and Kate, the women, were the central figures of the story. With many men gone, they took on bigger roles. Charlotte was already a strong woman, but took on more decision making roles. Kate is just blooming into adulthood when the prisoners arrive and is left to discover a relationship on her own while her mother worries about the Prisoners and her own growing feelings for Karl. Suspense slowly builds in the story with the distrust of the Prisoners and provides quite unexpected ending. Overall, an engaging story of one families experience during World War II.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Lucy Sanna has published poetry, short stories, and nonfiction books, which have been translated into a number of languages. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Sanna now divides her time between Madison, Wisconsin, and San Francisco. The Cherry Harvest is her first novel.
Find out more about Lucy at her website and connect with her on Facebook.