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We Were Strangers Once

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  743 ratings  ·  117 reviews
For readers of The Nightingale and Brooklyn, an exquisitely moving novel about friendship, love, and redemption in a circle of immigrants who flee Europe for 1930s-era New York City.

On the eve of World War II Egon Schneider--a gallant and successful Jewish doctor, son of two world-famous naturalists--escapes Germany to an uncertain future across the sea. Settling into the
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published September 12th 2017 by Grand Central Publishing
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3.77  · 
Rating details
 ·  743 ratings  ·  117 reviews

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Angela M
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I was going to hold off on reading this, having read several books in the last year or so on the refugee experience. This one though, didn't take place in the current day, but before WWII and I thought about immigrants from our history even earlier than this time when my grandparents came to this country. It's probably something that many of us think about with the current focus on immigration and the title certainly resonated for me and then the dedication "To everyone from somewhere else". The
Diane S ☔
Nov 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Aware of how the times are changing, a group of German Jews are fortunate enough to be able to leave their country before Hitler can implement his final Solution. They settle in Manhattan, take whatever jobs they can get, and though the jobs they take are far from the positions they held in their home country, they try to stay hopeful.

New relationships, periods of adjustment we follow a core group of characters. A slightly different type of WWII book, because these were the lucky ones though th

Egon Schneider is the son of naturalists; his father wrote about birds, wildflowers, his mother was the illustrator of those books. They were well known as a couple, and were referred to as the Audubons of Europe. They loved their work and each other, almost to the exclusion of everything and everyone else. When Egon was a boy, they observed him in much the same manner that they observed the birds that provided the means of their livelihood. To him, to his mother, the birds were their family, as
Cathy Daniel
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it
I'm so torn on this book! Ultimately, it's very raw and real and it's a story about immigrants. I found it overall so sad. Depressing, really. I always say I'm a HEA type reader, I want some hope and maybe some sweet romance. This is none of those things and it's not trying to be those things so I can't fault it. It's just a little too sad for me. I agree with some of the other reviewers in that it was crude at times (unnecessary profanity and sex scenes) I didn't love or even like the character ...more
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. This story of a small group of late 1930s era German Jewish immigrants and a second generation Irish woman and her family was moving, beautifully written and a timely reminder of the struggles and dreams and gifts immigrants bring to our country.
I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"America is a land of refugees and immigrants. Everyone was once a stranger here."

We Were Strangers Once is a timely novel, despite being set primarily during WWII. Carter has crafted a particularly poignant cast of characters in a group of Jewish immigrants fleeing Germany for the promise of 1930s-era New York City. The narrative centers on Egon Schneider, a once proud and successful ophthalmologist in Frankfurt
Jun 27, 2017 rated it did not like it
I’ve never read any books by this author and I don’t know if this is her regular style of writing. But it sounds as the author is trying to tell the whole story in one breath. You can’t even get into the period time, especially of the war, with such rush-through style of writing. It is not the style of writing I like to read. Therefore, I’m not the right reviewer for this book. There are others who appreciate this style of writing and they will reveal veracious reviews.

@FB: Best Historical Ficti
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
First part of book, set in Germany, moved rather slowly but once the scene was set & a small group of Jewish friends/acquaintances from Frankfort immigrated to NYC in 1938, the story picked up and I zoomed through this in a day.

Also as a secondary story we have two first generation Irish characters who become part of the story of sorrow, pain, and slowly rebuilding lives & affirmation. Details good in the story . . . I could see the houses and gardens in Frankfort, the food, and then t
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We Were Strangers Once by [Carter, Betsy]I was given this book by NetGalley however the review is my own honest opinion

I found this book lyrical and tender in a way. The book is set in Germany, during Hitler's time, and in Washington Heights. It talks about the people who have to leave one country to live somewhere else. I felt like I could relate to the characters and the journey they made felt real. I enjoyed this book and I recommend it to all.

AudioBook Review
Stars: Overall 5 Narration 5 Story 5

The real questions that are dealt with here are those faced by many immigrants: how to hold on to yourself and your culture while reinventing yourself in this new life, as someone ‘different’, and deal with the prejudices that are different from, yet ultimately similar to those you fled from? Carter takes us on life journeys from the baby steps that would lead to Nazi Germany, through emigration and relocation to New York, only to face challeng
Aug 13, 2017 rated it liked it
We were Strangers Once tells a familiar tale about the struggle of new immigrants. The setting is New York during WWII. No matter the time period, the fears of fitting in and forging a new life are similar. Egon Schneider has made it out of Germany in the nick of time, but barriers exist for this young Jewish doctor. He forms a close group of friends who support each other as they are forced to leave behind some of their hopes and dreams. New experiences will shape their lives now.

This was a dec
Kasey Brinkley
Nov 13, 2017 rated it liked it
I was interested in reading this book since most of the WWII historical fiction books I have read take place in Europe. This novel primarily takes place in New York City following the lives of German Jewish immigrants (with the exception of Catrina and her family- Irish immigrants) on the eve of WWII. I appreciated the to-the-point writing style in the beginning of the book. The author gave you just enough information and the storyline moved quickly. Halfway into the book I found myself wanting ...more
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm tettering between 3 and 4 stars but 4 wins out because the ending was a good one. For me this was a different WWII book. German Jewish Immigrants to America, not because they really wanted to come but because they had no choices left to them in Germany.

I would have liked the characters to be more developed but in the end perhaps the reader has what is needed to become involved and to root for them in their new country.
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bev Davis
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
I love historical fiction and have read many books from this era. I had not read anything about Jewish immigrants to the US and their experiences. I loved this book and will now read her previous work. The only reason I gave it a 4 rather than a 5 is that I thought that the immigrants would have thoroughly discussed the atrocities going on in Germany regularly. It was a very good read and I highly recommend it.
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
I won this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I really wanted to like this book as I enjoy stories set in WWII. The story follows Egon, a German opthomologist, during the early part of the war and his immigration to the US. While the premise of the story resonates especially today, Egon and his friends were unsympathetic and somewhat unlikeable. Only the backstory on Catrina, Egon’s friend of Irish decent, really held my interest. The story wrapped up too fast and was too predictable.
Carolyn S
Jul 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Very well written, about a group of Jewish friends in America. All of who escaped Germany to avoid the unsettledment that was going on over there in the late 1930's. Most were professionals and needed to work at any job they could get in NY City.
This book shows the struggles they all have adjusting to life in NYC and how they overcome the abandonment of Germany.
Great book.
Nov 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I listened to this while driving back and forth to work. A good story of a group refugees experience that can help us understand that experience for todays refugees. Being forced from your home is very different from choosing to leave.
Amy Rhodes
May 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Once again, Carter has created richly sympathetic characters and provided wonderful period detail. The pacing is terrific; you feel as if you are racing through the lives of her people but with no lack of texture or context. This is a fully fleshed out saga of immigrants who have made it out of Germany in the late 30's and are building new lives and families in NY.
Nov 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: giveaways-won
Read this book after winning a Goodreads giveaway (thank you!). I’ve always been drawn to stories about the immigrant experience, and this is a solid one. Flawed characters abound, which made the story much more enjoyable.
Apr 28, 2019 rated it liked it
The Schneiders of Germany were a family of refinement, intellect and wealth. They were also Jewish. It is their son, Egon, who will come of age during the rise of the Nazis. He is one of the lucky ones who will make his way to the US before America enters the war. In NYC, Egon will rely upon other Jewish refugees who are all having a hard time assimilating. Egon will also meet an Irish-American woman, Catrina, who is part of the first generation to be born in the US. So much of the experience of ...more
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
I just finished reading We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter, in preparation for a book panel discussion I am going to. It was pretty good--say, 3 1/2 stars. It's about several Germans who escape Germany just prior to WWII and come to NYC, where one of them meets an Irish-American girl. The story was interesting but not that compelling, and the characters lacked warmth, so I didn't feel invested in the outcome. Still, it was well-written and a decent read overall.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

The title of this novel is deceiving. Only one character in the book is a stranger to the others; in fact, their existing friendship is the reason they gather together in New York after managing to escape Nazi Germany just in time. Their struggles to reestablish themselves in a new country are what makes the story draw you in. Yes, they are working at a deli counter, a dry cleaners and one character carries a sandwich board advertising men's suits up and down the street. The question is
Sep 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Betsy Carter's novel skillfully parallels the lives of German Jewish and Irish immigrants coming to this country with no option but to start over again. Her main character, a respected ophthalmologist before fleeing Europe, is reduced to selling cheese in a deli. The story is very timely -- I was reminded of a Chinese woman who spoke no English and was therefore not really eligible to be a housekeeper in our store, despite the fact that her husband said she was a chemical engineer before leaving ...more
Lois R. Gross
Jul 21, 2017 rated it liked it
In the great body of Holocaust literature, the stories of survivors are usually people who were in the Nazi concentration camps. This book imagines the lives of other "survivors," the people who got out of Europe in time, but lost their fortunes, professions, families, and identity in transitioning to America.

Egon Schneider was a son of education and privilege. His parents, "The Audubons of Europe", devoted their lives to studying birds in the German forests around Frankfurt.. Their son takes a
Jennifer Lara
Aug 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
We were Strangers Once by Betsey Carter is the story of immigrants in America. A story told in three parts. Part 1 opens in the Old Country, Germany 1890 with 21 year old Elisabeth Arnstein meeting with Professor Rudolph Schneider about an illustration job for his books. The two eventually marry and have their son, Egon. Egon grows to love animals as his parents do but when it’s time to head to university, he decides to study medicine. At university, he meets his roommate, Meyer Leavitt, who is ...more
May 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
We Were Strangers Once by Betsy Carter is a poignant story about relationships and survival. Set in New York City just prior to the beginning of WWII. The nation is struggling through the depression and for those who have lost everything, family, jobs and country, it is particularly hard.

The story revolves around Egon Schneider, a Jewish ophthalmologist and recent immigrant, who fled Germany to avoid persecution by the Nazi regime. Upon arriving in America he discovers that the land of opportun
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received We Were Strangers Once as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

Egon Schneider, the son of famous German nationalists, finds himself an unwilling immigrant to the United States on the eve of World War II. Though an ophthalmologist by trade, he finds himself selling cheese at a local deli. A small group of friends and family from his previous life joins him in New York as the cloud over Germany darkens. Egon and his circle of expatriates experience love and loss, while making the difficult and
Carolyn Russett
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
On the eve of World War II Egon Schneider--a gallant and successful Jewish doctor, son of two world-famous naturalists--escapes Germany to an uncertain future across the sea. Settling into the unfamiliar rhythms of upper Manhattan, he finds solace among a tight-knit group of fellow immigrants, tenacious men and women drawn together as much by their differences as by their memories of the world they left behind.

They each suffer degradations and triumphs large and small: Egon's terminally acer
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I am the author of the novel, Swim to Me, which was published in August 2007 by Algonquin Books who also published, The Orange Blossom Special in 2005. My memoir Nothing to Fall Back On was a national bestseller. I write for O: The Oprah magazine, Good Housekeeping, New York, Glamour and Hallmark, among others.
I was a reporter at Newsweek for nine years, and then served as the Editorial Director