Jerry Blanton has done his research well and written a powerful historical novel. Like its title, the novel is about both a nightmare and a dream.
Readers are swept along into the rise of National Socialism and the events leading to WWII, through the eyes of a dreamer, a good man trying to be a good German. Luther Weitgucker, a devout Lutheran from Dresden, wishes only to live a Christian life. He becomes a doctor, but is swept up by the times and finds himself without a way to make a living as patients dwindle. Teenagers and young men are either in Hitler Youth camps or military service, which had its own medical staff. And “the Nazis were eliminating those with chronic illnesses and genetic defects–exactly those patients who would come most often to his office,” as well as those with sexually transmitted diseases, Jewish patients, and others.
Desperate, Weitgucker decides to “bend but not break and survive this war and this regime.” He joins the navy, commands a submarine, and struggles to balance his ethics with wartime exigencies, all while keeping his beliefs a close-held secret.
The novel asks: Can one go on a spiritual quest in conditions like this? This amazingly aware protagonist brings books like Hermann Hesse’s Siddhartha, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship, and of course, the Bible aboard his submarine. He holds fast to his ethics while sinking ships.
Blanton includes biblical quotes and Christian references in the narrative, but the story never proselytizes. Occasionally, the prose is overwritten, such as a flowery description comparing qualities of water to a woman—a minor distraction.
Readers will have a hard time putting the book down. There’s action, drama, a unique view of the Nazi era, and, without preaching, a tale of a man who, like German theologian Bonhoeffer, was a “follower of Christ who eschewed the mysteries of the bible” during the nightmare years.
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