It’s Throwback Thursday! Today I’m resharing my review of Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson, a powerful dual timeline story—one of the best books I read in 2018.
The past story begins in Austria in 1938, just after Adolf Hitler has annexed the country.
Anyone who knows anything of twentieth century history suspects this isn’t going to end well. Max is the only son of a well-off Vienna banker. Luzi is the Jewish violinist he loves, and Annika is the daughter of a family servant … who loves Max.
The present story is that of Calisandra Anne Randall.
Callie is the half-owner of a children’s bookstore in small-town Ohio. The bookstore has been Callie’s refuge since she was a child. Now she’s making it a place where the next generation of children meet and come to love some of her favourite fictional characters.
Callie sells both new and secondhand books, and often finds things hidden in the books she sells. But Bambi is different. It’s not just the photograph hidden inside the book that captures her attention. It’s the German words written between the lines of the book. Callie’s attempts to find the story behind the book lead her to Austria and a mystery that’s almost eighty years old.
There were so many things that impressed me about Hidden in the Stars.
The way the two plot lines intertwined and intersected. The characters. The writing. The excellent historical research. The faith aspect. It all adds up to a lot more than the cover promised. And I was equally invested in the past and present stories, which is rare. (Yes, I’m one of those readers who usually wants to skip forward and read only half the story.)
The writing was excellent. My writer/editor self I was especially impressed by the way the author combined first person present tense for the contemporary story with third person past tense for the historical story. Mixing first and third person is not a technique for beginners. Mixing present and past tense is even more impressive. That Melanie Dobson managed to do both seamlessly is outstanding writing.
The historical research never overwhelmed the story. It was good to read a novel set in Austria rather than the more traditional Germany. And it was wonderful to read a story that didn’t have any obvious historical inaccuracies yet managed to share new information. (The author’s note at the end explained a couple of things I’d wondered about.)
I was also impressed by the way the Christian elements were woven into the plot.
The first half had very few religious references—Jewish or Christian. The second half brought out many truths about the nature of God, and the nature of good and evil. Unfortunately, World War II taught us a lot about evil … if we care to learn.
Recommended for fans of dual timeline stories with a hint of romance from authors like Kristy Cambron, Heidi Chiavaroli, and Cathy Gohlke.
Thanks to Tyndale House and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
About Melanie Dobson
Writing fiction is Melanie Dobson’s excuse to explore abandoned houses, travel to unique places, and spend hours reading old books and journals. The award-winning author of twenty novels, Melanie enjoys stitching together both time-slip and historical stories including Catching the Wind, Enchanted Isle, Beneath a Golden Veil, and the Legacy of Love novels.
Chateau of Secrets received a Carol Award for historical fiction, Catching the Wind’s audiobook won the 2018 Audie for Inspirational Novel, and The Black Cloister was ForeWord’s Book of the Year for Religious Fiction. Her next time-slip novel, Hidden Among the Stars, comes out in September.
Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with Jon’s work, the Dobson family has finally settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to travel and hike in both the mountains and the cliffs above the Pacific. When Melanie isn’t writing, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, dancing, and reading stories with her girls.
Find Melanie Dobson online at:
About Hidden Among the Stars
The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life.
But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.
Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambithat connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.