Italy, 1943—Germany occupies much of the country, placing the Jewish population in grave danger during World War II.
As children, Eva Rosselli and Angelo Bianco were raised like family but divided by circumstance and religion. As the years go by, the two find themselves falling in love. But the church calls to Angelo and, despite his deep feelings for Eva, he chooses the priesthood.
Now, more than a decade later, Angelo is a Catholic priest and Eva is a woman with nowhere to turn. With the Gestapo closing in, Angelo hides Eva within the walls of a convent, where Eva discovers she is just one of many Jews being sheltered by the Catholic Church.
But Eva can’t quietly hide, waiting for deliverance, while Angelo risks everything to keep her safe. With the world at war and so many in need, Angelo and Eva face trial after trial, choice after agonizing choice, until fate and fortune finally collide, leaving them with the most difficult decision of all.
War, brutality, forbidden love, and courage, are among some of the many themes coursing through the veins of this tale. At the heart of the story are two childhood friends - Angelo who is encouraged by his family to enter priesthood due to a debilitated leg, and Eva, a young Italian Jewish girl.
The bond between the two has always been extraordinary, but like many lifetime friendships, love takes hold. As Hitler and the Nazi regime infiltrate Italy, the Jewish people begin facing segregation, internment, and death. Father Angelo secretly works for the Vatican to help hide and protect Jewish families and Eva also tries to help the resistance.
With each passing chapter, the stakes increase for the characters and tensions rise. Historical facts are welded seamlessly in the storyline and are never jarring, but always accurate and provides a good historical timeline for the effects that World War II had on Italy.
The passion I experienced for the characters ratcheted up with each new poignant scene. The author does not shy away from showing the suffering of the Jewish people as they were inhumanely loaded into cattle cars and swept away to the concentration camps. And of course there is the enduring love between a priest who will abandon his vows for the woman that he loves in a race to find each other again.
I am especially interested in novels that explore World War II and its impact on the Italian people, and this novel is one of the best I've read in this regard to date! HIghly, highly, highly recommended!