Leah Good's Reviews > Once We Were Brothers

Once We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson
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bookshelves: 2018, adult, contemporary, historical-fiction

Intense. That's the best way I can think to describe this book. It's hard to pick a rating. Writing, 5 stars. Significant story, 5 stars. Unfortunately, there was enough strong language in the book to make me uncomfortable recommending it freely--thus the reduction of stars reflected in my Goodreads rating.

Once We Were Brothers combines legal drama with historical fiction. It all starts when a modest pensioner makes his way into a crowded gala and confronts a well-known Chicago philanthropist at gunpoint. The pensioner is Ben Solomon, Jewish survivor of WWII. The philanthropist is Elliot Rosenzweig, a man known to be a Jewish survivor but now accused of being a Nazi war criminal.

As the potential for a legal battle builds, Ben Solomon takes Catherine, a reluctant lawyer, back in history to a time when his parents took in a young German boy and treated him as their own. He uses vivid memories to weave pictures of Poland sinking into the insanity of WWII and his own story of a battle for survival, love, and his fading trust in a man he once thought of as a brother.

What I Liked
Never forget. When acts of atrocity occur, people swear to never forget yet, inevitably, time passes and memories fade. This book uses the narrative and conviction of a fictional old man to make history vivid again and to remind those who were not there to hold the past in remembrance. Those who forget are destined to repeat. Once We Were Brothers is a powerful story.

I appreciated the authors treatment of religion. He neither ignored it nor made a caricature of it--incorporating both Judaism and Catholicism in the context of the war and afterwords. Intriguingly, inspiration credited to the Almighty, is a key element of the story.

What I Didn't Like
The presence of foul language built through the second half of the book. When some of the first cusses dropped, the situation was such that I was willing to accept it as realistic and even justifiable in the circumstance. However, the context changed and the language continued. It really detracted from the story, and I'm sad that I can't recommend the book as freely as the story itself makes me wish to.

Content Rating: R for sexual assault & language

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Reading Progress

September 21, 2016 – Shelved
September 21, 2016 – Shelved as: to-read
January 5, 2018 – Started Reading
January 5, 2018 –
11.0% "Not exactly what I was expecting but interesting."
January 12, 2018 –
January 12, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018
January 12, 2018 – Shelved as: adult
January 12, 2018 – Shelved as: contemporary
January 12, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
January 12, 2018 – Finished Reading

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