Michelle's Reviews > The Day the Flowers Died

The Day the Flowers Died by Rebecca  May
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's review
Jan 07, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: history, historical-fiction, politics, romance, religion-philosophy
Read in January, 2011

When I downloaded the free copy of Blackwelder's The Day the Flowers Died , I was in no way prepared for the book I got. Yes, like many free downloads, it is in need of some good editing. There are times when the descriptions go on forever, and at times the narration or dialog feels stilted. However, Blackwelder's story is so powerful that is rises above these problems. I find myself, a month later, still thinking about the story, about the characters, as if they were people who truly lived - perhaps in my family, or a friend's family.

I studied Political Geography and German, and my husband's emphasis for his History degree was WWII. Between the books from his senior level classes and my German-Jewish writers class, I felt that I had a pretty decent handle on the events leading up to the Holocaust. I've been to numerous museums, both in the US and Germany, read memoirs and spoken to Holocaust survivors, so I thought that I had an (albeit sheltered and incomplete) empathy if not understanding of some of the emotional aspects of living in Germany during those years. But nothing has ever quite impacted me on an emotional level in the same way as Eli and Rebecca's story.

Throughout my reading I found myself stopping and looking things up in books such as Hitler's Thirty Days to Power: January 1933 or The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, only to find that Blackwelder's history was achingly accurate. Things that I had intellectually understood now resonated on an emotional level. I had seen and understood the horror of the ghettos, but not the suffocating fear and uncertainty of the middle class street suddenly devoid of children, the park without strollers. I think it is easier to separate ourselves from things that are extremely horrible, absolutely outside the bounds of our experience. However, we have all felt the odd chill of an unusually quiet street, a silent park, an empty building. To imagine the streets of Munich thus, and to see it so through Eli and Rebecca's experience - the added fear, shame, confusion - left me deeply unsettled. They became real to me, and, despite knowing the few possible outcomes for them, I couldn't help but wish that I could unknown history for a little while. Or that Blackwelder might fudge the historical accuracy, but she does not, nor should she.

I don't think this book will be for everyone, nor do I think it is perfectly constructed. However, I think that Ami Blackwelder brought history to life for me in a way that, though I may not have liked, I certainly needed. I feel privileged to have know Eli and Rebecca, and find that, though they were fictional, they were also real.
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